Philosophy

The doubt

Since the dawn of time man has considered himself the master of all other earthly creatures! He is endowed with a great intellectual capacity and was born to dominate them. However, there is one thing which can make a man go forward one day and backward the next day, and that is doubt.

Some people present life as a set of events whose nature is always binary, everything is happiness or misfortune, good or bad, true or false. But to avoid entering into this hybrid and cleaving choice of things, one must doubt.

As always, it is essential to define the notions I am going to deal with, it is then necessary to define doubt first. Doubt is a word that refers to several meanings, on one hand it is the fact of not agreeing with an established truth, on the other doubt can be the fact of hesitating between two things.

Let us analyze the first definition, if doubt is the fact of not adhering to an established truth, it would therefore be a form of resistance to the established vision of things, in this case doubt is the very negation of truth. Two consequences come to my mind: if doubt calls into question an established truth, it is an essential factor of progress because progress has always been made by questioning established certainties (we will come back to this!); in the other sense, it is then possible to prohibit doubt in a particular society or organization (we will come back to it later as well).

Let us analyze the second definition, doubt is the fact of hesitating between two things. In my previous article on freedom of choice, I insisted on the fact that choice allows us to privilege one thing over another. Sometimes the choice is easy to make, but from time to time the choice raises a doubt in our mind. When a person is confronted with a situation where he has to choose between two totally different things, he will not have difficulty in making his choice, but when the person is confronted with two similar things, the choice gives way to hesitation.

Why continue to doubt when the truth has been established?

Man is a being in permanent quest, his thirst for change is unquenchable. It is impossible to satisfy man with any certainty because he doubts everything. Doubt is in man’s nature and in his interest. He is unable to avoid doubt if his present situation does not suit him. In this case, man does not doubt for the sake of doubting the established truth (although!).

What would the world be like without doubt?

This question is an open door to all speculation. The greatest discoveries have always been preceded by a series of doubts about pre-existing situations. Christopher Columbus, for example, when he discovered America, he doubted the assertions of his time; his contemporaries believed that there was no land beyond the waters of the Atlantic. For the sake of progress, scientists have drawn on the knowledge of their time to discover new things.

If there is a thirst for change, there is also a fear of change. This fear has led to senseless prohibitions and unwarranted persecution. Many men of science have perished, guilty of doubt. This was the fateful case of Galileo, who had simply wanted to enlighten the men of his time about the universe around them; he was condemned for having doubted the Church’s version of the movement of the earth.

Is it necessary to doubt everything?

Personally, I believe it is essential to doubt. However, doubt must be used for something. If doubt is a factor in progress, doubt is also the source of hesitation. Doubt is essential only when it is in our interest, we cannot be satisfied with established certainties, but in order to move forward, we must not leave much room for hesitation.

I will end by quoting René Descartes who used to say “I think therefore I am”, remaining faithful to his words I will in turn say I doubt, therefore I am.

Written by Divin Garnaud Irakoze.

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