Related concepts and fundamentals:
Doubt is a mental state in which the mind remains suspended between
two or more contradictory propositions, unable to assent to any of
them.[better source needed]
Doubt on an emotional level
is indecision between belief and disbelief. It may involve
uncertainty, distrust or lack of conviction on certain facts, actions,
motives, or decisions.
Doubt can result in delaying or rejecting
relevant action out of concern for mistakes or missed opportunities.
2 Impact on society
8 See also
9 Notes and references
10 Further reading
The concept of doubt as a suspense between two contradictory
propositions covers a range of phenomena: on a level of the mind it
involves reasoning, examination of facts and evidence and on an
emotional level believing and disbelieving
In premodern theology doubt was "the voice of an uncertain conscience"
and important to realize, because when in doubt "the safer way is not
to act at all".
Impact on society
Doubt sometimes tends to call on reason.
Doubt may encourage people to
hesitate before acting, and/or to apply more rigorous methods. Doubt
may have particular importance as leading towards disbelief or
Politics, ethics and law, with decisions that often determine the
course of individual life, place great importance on doubt, and often
foster elaborate adversarial processes to carefully sort through all
Societally, doubt creates an atmosphere of distrust, being accusatory
in nature and de facto alleging either foolishness or deceit on the
part of another. Such a stance has been fostered in Western European
society since the Enlightenment, in opposition to tradition and
Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory attributes doubt (which may be
interpreted as a symptom of a phobia emanating from the ego) to
childhood, when the ego develops.
Childhood experiences, these
theories maintain, can plant doubt about one's abilities and even
about one's very identity.
Cognitive mental as well as more spiritual approaches abound in
response to the wide variety of potential causes for doubt. Behavioral
therapy — in which a person systematically asks his own mind if the
doubt has any real basis — uses rational, Socratic methods. This
method contrasts to those of say, the
Buddhist faith, which involve a
more esoteric approach to doubt and inaction. Buddhism sees doubt as a
negative attachment to one's perceived past and future. To let go of
the personal history of one's life (affirming this release every day
in meditation) plays a central role in releasing the doubts —
developed in and attached to — that history.
Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective
climate of fear and doubt.
Cartesian doubt as a pre-eminent methodological
tool in his fundamental philosophical investigations. Branches of
philosophy like logic devote much effort to distinguish the dubious,
the probable and the certain. Much of illogic rests on dubious
assumptions, dubious data or dubious conclusions, with rhetoric,
whitewashing, and deception playing their accustomed roles.
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.
Doubt that god(s) exist may form the basis of agnosticism — the
belief that one cannot determine the existence or non-existence of
god(s). It may also form other brands of skepticism, such as
Pyrrhonism, which do not take a positive stance in regard to the
existence of god(s), but remain negative. Alternatively, doubt over
the existence of god(s) may lead to acceptance of a particular
religion: compare Pascal's Wager.
Doubt of a specific theology,
scriptural or deistic, may bring into question the truth of that
theology's set of beliefs. On the other hand, doubt as to some
doctrines but acceptance of others may lead to the growth of heresy
and/or the splitting off of sects or groups of thought. Thus
proto-Protestants doubted papal authority, and substituted alternative
methods of governance in their new (but still recognizably similar)
Christianity often debates doubt in the contexts of salvation and
eventual redemption in an afterlife. This issue has become
particularly important in Protestantism, which requires only the
acceptance of Jesus, though more contemporary versions have arisen
within the Protestant churches that resemble Catholicism.
Doubts, by Henrietta Rae, 1886
Doubt as a path towards (deeper) belief lies at the heart of the story
of Saint Thomas the Apostle. Note in this respect the theological
views of Georg Hermes:
... the starting-point and chief principle of every science, and hence
of theology also, is not only methodical doubt, but positive doubt.
One can believe only what one has perceived to be true from reasonable
grounds, and consequently one must have the courage to continue
doubting until one has found reliable grounds to satisfy the
Christian existentialists such as
Søren Kierkegaard suggest that for
one to truly have belief in God, one would also have to doubt one's
beliefs about God; the doubt is the rational part of a person's
thought involved in weighing evidence, without which the belief would
have no real substance.
Belief is not a decision based on evidence
that, say, certain beliefs about God are true or a certain person is
worthy of love. No such evidence could ever be enough to pragmatically
justify the kind of total commitment involved in true theological
belief or romantic love.
Belief involves making that commitment
anyway. Kierkegaard thought that to have belief is at the same time to
Most criminal cases within an adversarial system require that the
prosecution proves its contentions beyond a reasonable doubt — a
doctrine also called the "burden of proof". This means that the State
must present propositions which preclude "reasonable doubt" in the
mind of a reasonable person as to the guilt of defendant. Some doubt
may persist, but only to the extent that it would not affect a
"reasonable person's" belief in the defendant's guilt. If the doubt
raised does affect a "reasonable person's" belief, the jury is not
satisfied beyond a "reasonable doubt". The jurisprudence of the
applicable jurisdiction usually defines the precise meaning of words
such as "reasonable" and "doubt" for such purposes.
To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally
convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.
—Henri Poincaré, Science and
Hypothesis (1905) (from Dover abridged
edition of 1952)
The scientific method regularly quantifies doubt, and uses it to
determine whether further research is needed. Isaac Azimov, in his
Fact and Fancy, described science as a system for
causing and resolving intelligent doubt.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt
Further research is needed
List of ethics topics
Notes and references
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Doubt
Look up doubt or dubious in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Doubt.
^ Sharpe, Alfred. "Doubt". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New
York: Robert Appleton. Retrieved 2008-10-21. A state in which the mind
is suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to
assent to either of them.
^ Braiker, Harriet B. (2004). Who's Pulling Your Strings ? How to
Break The Cycle of Manipulation. ISBN 0-07-144672-9.
^ Schulte, Karl Joseph (1910). "George Hermes". The Catholic
Encyclopedia. 7. New York: Robert Appleton. Retrieved
^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, ed.
by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, v. 1, Princeton University Press,
1992, pp. 21–57
^ Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, trans. Hong and
Malantschuk, p. 399.
Berger, Peter L. and Zijderveld, Anton (2009). In Praise of Doubt: How
to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanatic. New York: HarperOne.
ISBN 978-0-06-177816-2. A book by two eminent sociologists, one
American and the other Dutch.
Hecht, Jennifer Michael (2003). Doubt: a history: the great doubters
and their legacy of innovation from Socrates and
Jesus to Thomas
Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
ISBN 0-06-009795-7. This book traces the role of doubt
through human history, all over the world, particularly regarding
Hein, David (Winter 2006). "Faith and
Doubt in Rose Macaulay's The
Towers of Trebizond".
Anglican Theological Review
Anglican Theological Review 88 (1): 47–68.
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