Value Of Things Not Certain -- By: Austin Bierbower
BSac 64:256 (Oct 1907) p. 764
Value Of Things Not Certain
Not all that has importance for us can be well known, and we may not dismiss from consideration matters about which we have not the materials for an opinion. To rely only on what is certain is to confine ourselves to the commonplaces of life. Men’s greatest thoughts and activities are on the outskirts of knowledge, and it is a question what we can rescue from the realm of conjecture. The knowledge that we may have of the incomprehensible has worth, and still more the conduct founded on it.
While we cannot be certain, for example, of one’s character from his face, the value of expression is yet great. Business men rely on slight indications for their judgments. A leader must know men, which he does from their doubtful disclosures. A detective can, from slight appearances, pick out a criminal in a crowd; a credit man can predict a customer’s success: and practical conduct in all lines proceeds largely on indications that are not reduced to science.
In buying a horse one acts on information which is not conclusive. He studies indications, and may be mistaken when he does his best; but the indications furnish points enough for a decision. To be confident only when sure is to have little decision. The practical man acts and trusts when in doubt, risking all on things not proven.
The African explorer cannot know if a given fruit is poisonous; he must try it; yet it would be irrational to make no ventures on indications. One must take many steps which may be disastrous. Progress comes from ventures on the uncertain.
The sportsman locates game at a venture. He cannot know
BSac 64:256 (Oct 1907) p. 765
where the deer are; but he studies the depths of the forest, the proximity of streams, and the abundance of pasture; and while, with all these, he is in ignorance, he will yet act. To wait for a solution of his doubts would be to let his opportunities pass. The certain things are all taken up by commonplace men, who are satisfied with small results, and between whom the competition is over-great.
The prospector who sinks a well for oil does it in doubt. Experimenters make a guess from a few indications, and know that they may fail. But the way to success is through uncertain steps. Every great business is a venture, which may yield a fortune or a failure. Yet men do not sit idle because they do not know. They break through their ignorance, taking advantage of such indications as they can get. For, one is not wholly ignorant who is ignorant; he knows something, and that something may disclose the rest. Discoveries are all made from partial ignorance, and remove some ignoranc...
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