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The Radical Yearning for Uncertainty

The Radical Yearning for Uncertainty Perception is the tool in which we experience consciousness and how we perceive what we call “objective reality.” But like all tools and paraphernalia, perception itself has its limits, and even consciousness has boundaries that if we cross, madness will await us. The main limit of consciousness and perception that plagues all of humanity is uncertainty. Uncertainty can come in many different forms, from the lack of a fail-safe way to predict the future (which is what most people think of when they hear the word), to the uncertain nature of scientific theories and concepts (quantum mechanics being the prime example). The word itself holds a negative connotation from the viewpoint of society, and most people believe being uncertain of ideas is a flaw of the human condition. Uncertainty, though, is not a flaw to “fix” or a problem to “solve,” but a concept to embrace with the certainty of not knowing everything. Far from it, uncertainty itself is a core facet of nature itself. While the concept of uncertainty does not bring concrete answers to the nature of perception or consciousness itself, it does offer some much-needed perspective on how we pursue science, art, and philosophy. Besides that, coming to terms with uncertainty can positively affect how we, as human beings, view the world, and perhaps break the self-imposed boundaries on our psyche. 

In order to truly explore how uncertainty shapes consciousness and perception, we must first define what those two concepts are in the context of this argument and what the main problems of perception and consciousness are as well. Consciousness has no one definition, and there are many theories surrounding its nature and where it comes from. The main (and most 

agreed upon) definition of consciousness in science though, comes from the medical field. Consciousness is defined as “...either the state of wakefulness, awareness, or alertness in which most human beings function while not asleep or one of the recognized stages of normal sleep from which the person can be readily awakened.”1 According to this definition, the three main aspects of consciousness are self-awareness, perception of the environment, and an awareness of the environment beyond the conscious entity. This creates many questions about how these three features of the human brain interplay, but a recent study illustrates a possible scientific explanation for both concepts’ correlation and whether causation should be considered. In summary, a sample of epileptic patients were instructed to perform several cognitive tasks that required perception from the left and right hemispheres of the brain.The findings revealed that consciousness and perception do in fact interact; for example, when some of the patients in the study suffered from a stroke in the right hemisphere, they lost the ability to perceive or “pay attention” to what was occurring in the left. Strangely, the patients’ sensory perception was perfectly intact, but their consciousness perception was not. The study itself did not reveal much about the exact machinations of how these two parts of the human psyche interact, but it was a crucial step in the direction towards understanding how perception affects consciousness. The “question of consciousness” or “problem of consciousness” can be split into several “Questions” that tackle the most puzzling aspects of the phenomenon3: 

  • “The Descriptive Question: What is consciousness? What are its principal features? And by what means can they be best discovered, described and modeled?” 

  • “The Explanatory Question: How does consciousness of the relevant sort come to exist? Is it a primitive aspect of reality, and if not, how does (or could) consciousness in the 

relevant respect arise from or be caused by nonconscious entities or processes?” 

  • “The Functional Question: Why does consciousness of the relevant sort exist? Does it have a function, and if so what is it? Does it act causally and if so with what sorts of effects? Does it make a difference to the operation of systems in which it is present, and if so why and how?” 

While there are no scientific or concrete answers to these questions, the concept of uncertainty plays a significant role in the most critical of questions we ask ourselves about our consciousness: Why do we exist? Why do we have advanced self-awareness that goes beyond mere instinct? These questions form the central basis of all of philosophy, and are an extremely major theme explored in art of all mediums; even science has its uncertainties. But what even is uncertainty itself? For the context of this paper, uncertainty involves not just the prediction of incomplete or unknown knowledge, but also the state of being unsure. In other words, uncertainty creates the impossibility of knowing the outcome and consequences of a choice.4 

Uncertainty is far from something to be ashamed about or to hide; being certain of your uncertainty is something of an admirable trait. Knowing that you lack the knowledge of a concept or idea and admitting it puts you and others in a vulnerable position; in other words, it gives others the opportunity to judge and reject you on the basis of that lack. Unfortunately, many people in society hold the misinformed notion that a lack of knowledge equates to a lack of intelligence. Knowledge and intelligence are related, but are two completely different concepts; one can compensate for the other since knowledge can be disguised as intelligence, and vice versa. Besides that, embracing uncertainty can free you from expectations, and can even allow for true creativity to blossom. Take quantum mechanics: according to physicist Nathan 

Harshman, uncertainty itself is the entire basis for that field of science.Throughout the history of science since time immemorial, ultimate certainty was (and still is) the goal. Acknowledging uncertainty involves accepting the fact that you cannot know everything and that there is a chance that some questions may never be answered. Crafting our own answers to uncertainty is the basis of all art and philosophy, and it is an essential aspect of what makes us human. Do not simply take uncertainty; love it, cherish it, and make it euphoric, for uncertainty is how we learn to understand that we cannot control everything and that the best we can do with it is to be certain of it. 1 Tindall SC. Level of Consciousness. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 57. Available from:

2 Liu, J., Bayle, D.J., Spagna, A. et al. Fronto-parietal networks shape human conscious report through attention gain and reorienting. Commun Biol 6, 730 (2023). 3 Van Gulick, Robert, "Consciousness", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL: = 

4 Hubbard, D. W. (2014). How to measure anything: finding the value of "intangibles" in business. Wiley.

5 Sha, Richard C., and Nathan Harshman. “Uncertainty Isn’t a Human Flaw, It’s a Feature of the World.” Psyche, edited by Sam Haselby, Psyche, 18 Apr. 2023, 

written by Coemi Deremi


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