On Disinclination to Learn

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

– Douglas Adams


When contemplating the property uncertainty‏, as with knowledge, it turns out to be very difficult to provide an uncontentious analysis. Because of its many different conceptions and dimensions, the full value of uncertainty‏ is surprisingly hard to capture. To that end, below is a list of quotations to help sketch a definition of the property uncertainty‏.

“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”
– Douglas Adams

“Il n’est pas certain que tout soit incertain.”
(It is not certain that everything is uncertain.)
– Blaise Pascal

“The mistake is thinking that there can be an antidote to the uncertainty.”
– David Levithan

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
– Albert Einstein

“Maturity, one discovers, has everything to do with the acceptance of not knowing.”
– Mark Z. Danielewski

“In these times I don’t, in a manner of speaking, know what I want; perhaps I don’t want what I know and want what I don’t know.”
– Marsilio Ficino

“When in doubt, be ridiculous.”
– Sherwood Smith

“We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.”
– Blaise Pascal

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
– Richard Feynman

See more: Approximations


Q.E.D. is an abbreviation for the Latin quod erat demonstrandum meaning ‘[that] which had to be demonstrated’.

‘Q.E.D.: a Mathematician’s way of saying “I win”.’ – Urban Dictionary

The abbreviation of the phrase is traditionally placed at the end of a mathematical proof or philosophical argument to denote the conclusion of the demonstration. The abbreviation thus signals the completion of the proof.

The phrase is a translation into Latin from the Greek ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι ‘what was required to be proved’. The phrase was used by many early Greek mathematicians, including Euclid and Archimedes.

The phrase has also been used outside mathematics and philosophy for comic effect.

For instance, in Thomas Dolby’s 1988 song Airhead, he imagines a conversation with the titular young woman and says “quod erat demonstrandum, baby”, to which she squeals the eager reply “ohhh, you speak French!”

Also, in chapter six of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the abbreviation is included in the following exchange:

The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.
“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.