An affirmation is always related with a testimony. Philosophically a testimony is the statement that based on personal experience or personal knowledge. What is the relevance of a testimony? It is a valid source of knowledge, more specifically true knowledge. We cannot personally verify each and every fact of the universe. So we have to depend the testimonies of others. We cannot believe everyone. So the source must have some credibility. Lets go to epistemology for more details. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy which deals with the study of knowledge.
Epistemology suggests following sources of knowledge
- Perception – knowledge perceived with sense organs
- Reason – rationality is a related term
- Introspection – knowledge of one’s self, attained through self evaluation
- Memory – stored knowledge which learned in the past
- Testimony – relies on others for knowledge. There are different opinions about considering testimony as a source of knowledge. The source must be verified. But practically the verification could be near to impossible. A person could be good in one subject but that does not mean that he is good in every subjects. Asking Sachin Tendulkar about atomic power may not be sensible, even after Sachin is a very reliable person. The point is we cannot identify the authenticity of an information provided by another person.
Now lets go to affirmation. It is the declaration that something is true. You can affirm your own statement or the statements of others.
You might have heard the story of an old man carrying a lamb on his shoulders and four youngsters. They planned to steel the lamb and met the old man on his way one after one. They all asked the old man that why he was carrying a stray dog and managed to convince him that its a dog not a lamb and eventually threw it away. The youngsters took it home.
The story is dealing with testimony and affirmation. Obviously the old man believed the testimony from an unreliable source. The affirmation of others did the rest of the job.
Now back to the original question, what is the relevance of an affirmation by a person on his own statements. The sales men on the footpath do it so often and manage to convince us to buy their product. We are trusting the seller for his own products. In fact there may not be another source to verify and we have to rely on the available one.
The affirmation in other situations also work like that. We take the affirmation of someone when there is no one else to give the guarantee or atleast in some cases we cannot ask for guarantee due to the extend of relation with the person in question. We cannot ask the neighbour to sign a contract with pledged security when she affirms that she will return the sugar she is about to lend.
Affirmation gives us happiness at times. Especially when someone is assuring emotional support. “I promise that I will be with you in every bad moments of your life” is indeed a special statement for anyone. Especially when the person is suffering from troubles of life and hardly have anyone to support or console.
The affirmation may not be logically valid in many cases since it is not an extra assurance about the credibility of the person. But it can be significantly important for those who expect it from others. Take the example of a wife asking her husband to come early for to go for a dinner. She will be more than happy if the husband calls back in the afternoon to affirm that he will reach on time and be ready( in 99% cases the husbands will be late, that’s another issue). So let me conclude by saying that provide affirmation to those statements which you can atleast try to fulfil. That will increase your credibility. The knowledge about your efforts to fulfil the affirmation is good enough to make others happy.