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Doubt and the Acquisition of Knowledge Essay

Is doubt of any value in acquiring facts and knowledge? There are a number of approaches to tackling this question. If we were to look at various religious philosophies such as the teachings of Hinduism, Buddha and Christ, the disadvantages of doubt can be ascertained. The Bible says that there is a proper time for everything under the sun: “Every activity and every purpose has its proper time” (Ecclesiastes 3:17) This statement has bearing on the question as to the role doubt can play in acquiring knowledge.

It implies that there is a proper time for doubt. I feel that one such time is when doubt serves as a driving force towards acquiring knowledge. Doubt certainly can be a stumbling block in acquiring knowledge and using it. Doubt can make an individual leery and hesitant. Yet, like most aspects of life, doubt can have both positive and negative effects on anything, including the process of learning and acquiring knowledge. While doubt can make one skeptical, it can also serve as a driving force to motivate a person to find the truth.

In the opening quote, Dr. Bartus points out that insecurity and uncertainty can have value. Elsewhere in his book, he says that false assumptions and self-delusions are our greatest obstacles to solving problems (p. 107). This idea has bearing on the role of doubt in acquiring knowledge. Certainly, doubt can be an obstacle to acquiring knowledge, but when doubt causes a person to examine (or re-examine) his or her assumptions and discover his or her self-delusions, then doubt has served a valuable service that can lead to a search for answers and knowledge.

While doubt can make people closed minded, I feel that doubt can drive people to ask probing questions that increase one’s knowledge when they pursue the answers to their questions. Columbus and Magellan doubted that the world was flat. They resolved to prove their point by sailing around the world to India. Even though the world is round, these explorers took a great chance. There was no guarantee that one could sail from Europe to India even if they were correct about a round world. They had no idea as to what dangers might lay ahead.

There could have been scorching deserts, impassable jungles, large continents covered by marshland, hostile people, man eating animals, bitter cold or any one of an infinite number of unknown dangers. Whatever they encountered would have confirmed or refuted their doubts and added to the knowledge of the time. So, doubt can definitely assist one in acquiring knowledge. Attempting to answer questions that arise from doubt can cause/create insecurity. It takes courage to face the uncertainties that arise when challenging and facing your doubts and the unknown, but the reward gained in pursuit of the challenge can be worthwhile and valuable

Ultimately, I must conclude that doubt can serve as both an asset and a hindrance in acquiring knowledge, but those who are willing to face their doubts may find their efforts rewarding. In the end, perhaps doubt leads to questions that bring about the acquisition of knowledge. I would like to think that is the best outcome and reward from doubt. We do not progress by being perfect. We progress by making mistakes and correcting them, and we do not acquire knowledge without doubt, but by having doubts and resolving them. Perhaps that is as it should be. The uncertainty and insecurity of doubt propels us forward towards greater knowledge.


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