By what reason, father, do you prove that you alone must be believed?
Because I am certain, he says, that I have my teaching from heaven.
By what means are you certain that you have your teachings from heaven?
Because God has seized me unawares, he said, and carried me into the midst of these turmoils.
How do know that God has seized you?
Because I am certain, he says, that my teaching is from God.
How do you know that?
Because God has seized me.
How do you know this?
Because I am certain.
How are you certain?
Because I know.
But how do you know?
Because I am certain.1
Thomas More, 1523, Responsio ad Lutherum, John Headley (Ed), Sister Scholastica Mandeville (Trans), in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Yale University Press, New Haven CT, Vol. 5, p. 307. I learned of this imaginary dialogue between More and Luther from a lecture by Susan Schreiner; it is discussed in Chapter 6 of her book Are You Alone Wise? The Search for Certainty in the Early Modern Era, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011.↩
Had he read Democritus, he might have discovered, in philosophy's first collection of ethical precepts, among portents of atheism, and the vision of his own soul composed of round, smooth, especially mobile atoms, that it is the unexpected which occurs.
—William Gaddis, The Recognitions