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Possibilianism: A Rejection of Both Religious and Atheist Certainty

By Edited Oct 23, 2015 1 2

So What is Possibilianism?

(Sometimes also spelled possibillion or possibilitarian)


"Doubt is an uncomfortable position but certainty is an absurd position." - Voltaire

Possibilianism is the concept that the universe is too vast and unknown that any kind of certainty becomes problematic. It is about accepting uncertainty and the possibility that any viewpoint can potentially be proven wrong or right. As a result we should try to explore as many possibilities as we can. As our understanding increases we will be able to develop better and more viable ideas and importantly not committing to any of them with certainty.

It is often viewed with respect to the conflict between religious belief and atheism. On one side you have people with the absolute certainty that god exists as an absolute truth and on the other you have atheists that state that such things are absolutely impossible. In contrast Possibilianism promotes exploring possibilities surrounding these ideas rather then subscribing to a dogma. A possibilian would say to both sides that they don't have proof either for nor against so neither position can really be held.

While Possibilianism is about accepting our level of ignorance and the uncertainty of our current conclusions it isn't about sitting still and saying 'we can't know anything'. It is about thinking in terms of possibilities rather then making your mind up when you can't be certain.

Where did the term Possibilianism come from?

The term was coined by David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and author of the book "Sum: Tales from the Afterlives". Sum is a book containing a series of stories that look at different possibilities of what could happen when we die. When interviewed about the book he mentioned that he was neither atheist nor religious - he considered himself a possibilian. "I call myself a Possibilian: I'm open to...ideas that we don't have any way of testing right now." He soon received enormous feedback, emails stating that they too were possibilians.

What is the difference between possibilians and agnostics?

Agnosticism is generally defined as being the view that the existence or non-existence of religious or metaphysical claims are unknowable, for example we cannot prove or disprove that god can exist.

A possibilian will agree that metaphysical claims are unproven. However it goes one step further and also states that religious and metaphysical ideas were developed at a time when we knew so little about the world. As a result we are, today, able to develop much better ideas and philosophies about the world and as we learn more about the universe our capacity for developing ideas will grow.

As David Eagleman said himself, " 'Possibilianism' is going out and making up a bunch of new stories, because we know so much more now than those people who came up with those stories thousands of years ago."

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Comments

Oct 29, 2010 4:55pm
dreamaker
A very intriguing way to look at life. good article.
Mar 23, 2011 2:27pm
packjazz
It almost sounds as though Possibilianism is a subset of Agnosticism, no?
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