A blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Trusting yourself

Pär SegerdahlTrusting yourself, what does it mean? It can of course mean thinking that you always know best, trusting your strength to prevail over whoever and whatever you may meet in life.

There is another form of trust in yourself, where you trust your uncertainty rather than your certainty. You respond to your uncertainty not by accusing yourself, but by taking a deep breath and saying: this is difficult. I would not be so uncertain if it was not for the fact that I have come across something that truly requires caution, reflection, and long-term investigation.

It sounds humble when Socrates says that the only thing he knows is that he knows nothing. Or when it is said that wisdom lies in the recognition that one is not wise. In a sense, it is humble. However, this form of humility also exhibits self-reliance. One is uncertain not because one is unusually stupid but because some things are unusually difficult. Life sometimes surpasses the intellect.

People who trust their uncertainty express it as honest questions, instead of hiding it behind clever arguments and theses. When they express their uncertainty as questions, their work can begin. The uncertainty is then their only certainty. It shows them there is something worthy of investigation. It shows them the way, through sincere questions and rejections of premature solutions.

Sometimes weakness is a strength. Socrates relied on it. Researching persons do.

Pär Segerdahl

This post in Swedish

The Ethics Blog - Thinking about thinking


  1. MicFar

    This is basically my view of philosophy.

    • Pär Segerdahl

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I tend to think that philosophers are drawn towards areas where their uncertainty tells them that life surpasses the intellect (at least in its present condition) – philosophy is the work that arises here.

  2. Fiona Ulph

    I really liked this and think my students could find it useful. Do I have your permission to share of course crediting you?

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Pär Segerdahl

      Thank you, and yes of course you can share this post. (It originated as advice to students writing essays.)

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