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Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision. Doubt brings into question some notion of a perceived "reality", and may involve delaying or rejecting relevant action out of concerns for mistakes or faults or appropriateness. Some definitions of doubt emphasize the state in which the mind remains suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to assent to either of them[1] (compare paradox). The term "to doubt" can also mean "to question one's circumstances and life-experience"[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Impact on society

Doubt sometimes tends to call on reason. It may encourage people to hesitate before acting, and/or to apply more rigorous methods. Doubt may have particular importance as leading towards disbelief or non-acceptance.

Politics, ethics and law, faced 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 the evidence in an attempt to come to a decision.

One view regards the scientific method, and to a degree all of science, as entirely motivated by doubt: rather than accepting existing theories, scientists express systematic or habitual doubt (skepticism) and devise experiments to test (and, optimally, to disprove) any theory. Some commentators Template:Who? see technology as simply the expansion of the experiments to a wider user-base, which takes real risks[How to reference and link to summary or text] with it. Users may no longer doubt the applicability of the theory in play, but there remain doubts about how it interacts with the real world qua whole. The process of technology-transfer stages exploitation of science to ensure the minimization of doubt and danger.


PsychoanalystsTemplate:Who? oftenTemplate:Weasel-inline attribute doubt (which they may interpret as a symptom of a phobia emanating from the ego) to childhood, when the ego develops. Childhood experiences, these traditions maintain, can plant doubt about one's abilities and even about one's very identity — let alone doubt about the operations of the tooth fairy. The influence of parents and other influential figures often carries heavy connotations onto the resultant self-image of the child/ego, with doubts often included in such self-portrayals.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Cognitive mental as well as more spiritual approaches abound in response to the wide variety of potential causes for doubt — sometimes seen as a "Bad Thing". Behavioral therapy — in which a person systematically asks his own mind if the doubt has any real basis — uses rational, Socratic methods. Behavioral therapists claim that any constant confirmation leads to emotional detachment from the original doubt.[How to reference and link to summary or text] This method contrasts to those of say, the Buddhist faith, which involve a more esoteric approach to doubt and inaction. Buddhism sees all[How to reference and link to summary or text] 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. Through much spiritual exertion, one can (if desired) dispel doubt, and live "only in the present".[How to reference and link to summary or text]


Many peopleTemplate:Who? associate "excessive" doubt with obsessive-compulsive disorder, sometimes nicknamed a "disease of doubt".[How to reference and link to summary or text]


Descartes employed Cartesian doubt as a pre-eminent methodological tool in his fundamental philosophical investigations. One view suggests that Descartes' ideas in his Discourse on the Method may show the influence of the work of Al-Ghazali ("Algazel" to the West), whose method of doubting shares many similarities with Descartes' method.[2] 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.

See also


  1. See for example: includeonly>Sharpe, Alfred. "Doubt", The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, Robert Appleton. Retrieved on 2008-10-21. “A state in which the mind is suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to assent to either of them.”
  2. Najm, Sami M. (July-October 1966), "The Place and Function of Doubt in the Philosophies of Descartes and Al-Ghazali", Philosophy East and West 16 (3-4): 133–41 

External links

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