On Behalf of Doubt

A recent daily prompt asked bloggers to cure a single ailment. One of the responses was freshly pressed. The ailment to be cured, in MV’s* words: “Doubt. I would cure … doubt.”

I want to offer a defense of doubt. Far from an ailment, I would suggest that doubt is a virtue. I do not intend this response to be any sort of direct critique of MV’s post. The concerns she raises about doubt are legitimate, but she underdetermines the role doubt plays in life.

“Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.” -Jack Handey

Doubt moderates credulity and mitigates gullibility.

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” -Voltaire

Doubt permits us to question. It humbles.

“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. ” -Robert M. Persig

Doubt troubles. It is a source of vitality.

“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.” -Rollo May

Doubt solidifies commitment.

“The problem with certainty is that it is static; it can do little but endlessly reassert itself. Uncertainty, by contrast, is full of unknowns, possibilities, and risks.” -Stephen Batchelor

Doubt opens new possibilities. It suggests a new path.

“We’ll never survive!” 
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.” -William Goldman

And, yes, doubt hinders. Doubt halts. Doubt kills opportunity.

Like many virtues, doubt must be balanced. It must be kept in check. But we would suffer if we rid ourselves of it completely.

Nietzsche called doubt the beautiful luxury of a strong faith. By this, I think he meant that, as certainty is neared, one is permitted to doubt. Questioning, revisiting, and exploring, therefore, become possible again.

My best attempt at an aphorism for doubt: Doubt is the enemy of beginnings and the friend of ends.


*MV is short for MommyVerbs, the nom de plume of the eponymous blog’s author. Congrats on being freshly pressed.


One comment

  1. Michelle at The Green Study · November 16, 2013

    I would be afraid to live in a world where there was no doubt. There are countless examples of fiascoes and horrors committed by those who had no doubt in themselves or their beliefs. Let’s cure ignorance or sadism before we start taking away the thing that would help us recognize either of those “ailments”.

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