Doubt and the Acquisition of Knowledge Essay

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.

Doubt and the Acquisition of Knowledge Essay

The Value of Doubt through O’Brien’s “On the Rainy River” Essay

The Value of Doubt through O’Brien’s “On the Rainy River” Essay.

People value being certain as it gives them a sense of stability, self-reliance and control. Being certain gives one the power to be able to confidently assert beliefs or claims and act upon them. Descartes says as seen in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2005), “As my certainty increases, my doubt decreases, conversely, as my doubt increases, my certainty decreases. ” Doubting threatens the stability and assurance one initially possesses, which is why it is less frequently valued or appreciated.

However there is value in doubt, because through doubt, a person undergoes contemplation that may influence a decision or disposition, eventually evaluating the certainty of something.

As a consequence the actions of the person toward this certainty may be compromised. This is exemplified in Tim O’Brien’s short story entitled “On the Rainy River”. The short story “On the Rainy River” chronicles the events of O’Brien’s life after he has successfully finished his studies at Macalaster College. During his stay in school, he was an achiever.

It was the time of the Vietnam War and he then learns that he was being requested to go to battle. Undecided as to whether he should fight or not, he chose to stay and work in a factory but eventually realized that he could not find a way out of fighting. Unable to handle his situation anymore he fled to the Canadian boundary. There he met and spent time with the fishing resort owner Elroy Berdahl. O’Brien contemplated on the events of his life, especially during the fishing trip where he was faced with the option of going to Canada or going off to war.

In the end, O’Brien chose to go return to his hometown and eventually decided to fight in the Vietnam War (Sparknotes, 2006). From the summary above, it can be seen that O’Brien doubted joining the war. This doubt that O’Brien felt was a huge contrast to the certainty he had when he was in Macalaster College. In the institution he was an honors student and represented the student body, making him strong and secure about himself, his ideas and his values. One example of this is his stand against war (Sparknotes, 2006). Once he received news of going to war, his initial reaction was to stand by his conviction.

However, the notice fueled his thoughts about going to war. He started to contemplate and think about whether he is fit to be a combatant. People making him feel that he had to go to war further aggravated his hesitation. He also realized that it would be hard for him to find an excuse or a way out of combat. Doubting showed his struggle of letting go of what he was certain about, which was not to go to war. Because of internal and external influences that fed his doubt, his certainty on denouncing war diminished and he was unable to handle the burden and decided to run away.

However, by leaving and meeting Elroy, he was also able to reflect upon the consequences of going and not going to war. He finally decides that he could not bear the thought of disappointing people he knew, especially his family. This shows the value of doubt because had he not questioned his stand, he would have not considered weighing what was more important to him at that point in his life. As he looked back, whether he was ashamed of his decision or not is not the main point.

What is to be stressed is that his doubt was able to question his certainty and it made him act towards this as seen by his decision in the end to join the army. In conclusion, the value of doubt can be seen in the text as it shows how O’Brien’s outlook on participating in the war was affected. First, doubting allowed him to contemplate and reflect on something that he used to be certain about. Second, doubt contributed to changing his conviction, as after much contemplation, he could not bear the embarrassment of not going to war that led him to fight.

Doubt is valuable because it has the power to challenge something that one considers as certain, and allows that person to take action. References Sparknotes. (2006). The things they carried study guide: “On the rainy river”. Retrieved October 24, 2007 from: http://www. sparknotes. com/lit/thingscarried/section4. rhtml Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2005). Descartes’ epistemology. Retrieved October 24, 2007 from: http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/descartes-epistemology/

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The Value of Doubt through O’Brien’s “On the Rainy River” Essay