Doubt, Search, Find
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | May 2018
The vulnerable state of doubt leads to a curious search for more. We often neglect learning in exchange for secure and misguided dogma.
The narrower our view, the more vulnerable we are to deception. When firmly entrenched to unyielding dogma, we avoid open engagement with experience, limiting exposure for positive change. Our ability to help others, even ourselves, is enhanced through a sympathetic understanding of the vast universe of different experience.
Philosopher Rene Descartes stated it this way, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” Doubt precedes search. To gain wisdom, we first must be open to other possibilities. When we entertain the possibilities of mysterious answers, we experience vulnerability; but the openness invites curiosity, spurring a courageous venture into the scary pastures beyond the confining fences of dogmatism.
Our ability to help others, even ourselves, is enhanced through a sympathetic understanding of the vast universe of different experience.
Our minds naturally flow towards conservation of energy. We budget resources. Mental activity requires work, wearing the mind. Thinking saps precious resources; we budget by utilizing firm beliefs to relieve the pressure of grappling with the constant collision with complex alternatives. Many entice us, preying on our natural tendencies of simple-mindedness, delivering limiting doctrine and condemning skeptical examination. Believe or be dammed.
They teach, “If it feels good, it must be right.” The simplicity is attractive but fails to provide necessary guidance in the complex world of choice. The “feel good” approach creates conflict; different people feel different things. When we quickly bond with whatever is comforting, we easily go astray. Marketers wisely target comfort instead of reality. First impressions become impervious to reason. We are afraid of complexity because the uncertainty creates discomfort. Maybe this is what Nietzsche was suggesting when he said, “Madness is the result not of uncertainty but of certainty.”
Our intellectual smugness limits wisdom for individuals, nations and the species. It is men, such as Socrates, who claim ignorance that truly exhibit wisdom. When entertaining doubt, we are inclined to continually gather more information. Uncertainty doesn’t imply stagnation. Doubt and uncertainty are uncomfortable but through them we gain knowledge.
As Bertrand Russell would say, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Allow curiosity, skepticism and doubt to challenge accepted truths. When doubt is coupled with a gentle temperament and sympathetic understanding, we inquire deeper into the ruts of tradition without critical judgments, widening our view, and detecting silly deceptions.