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Variety and types

Imprecise circumscriptions and limited uniformity

The above discussion highlights the fact that any given state of uncertainty has both an ontological dimension and an epistemic dimension. Both dimensions are associated with the cognitive abilities of human beings. Yet they are clearly distinct from one another.8 As we have seen, the ontological dimension of uncertainty has to do with the individuation of objects and situations within the domain of experience.9 Most importantly, ontologies allow us to locate ourselves and others within a shared social domain. On the other hand, the epistemic dimension of uncertainty concerns the drawing of conclusions from premises starting with any given state of knowledge. Clearly uncertainty may be associated with imprecise circumscriptions of objects and situations; it may also be associated with limited uniformity and surprise. The argument of the previous section suggests a taxonomy of uncertain states of the universe, depending on the specific combination of ontological imprecision and epistemic imprecision (see Table 5.1).

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