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The Doubt

Doubt scares us. Accustomed as we are, also due to the simplification of language, to listening to people who shoot sentences, we have lost the richness of questioning, even in the most profound way.

Instead, we must cultivate doubt because it helps us to make at least more balanced, if not always more correct, decisions.

Do not give in to the temptation of your own certainties, and thinking before acting is important. Doubt also helps us to have a sense of the limit, not to feel omnipotent and infallible.

Doubting is a gesture of authority in our thinking.

Doubt is not pleasant, but certainty is ridiculous. Only stupid people are sure of what they say

–Voltaire

This thought of Voltaire turns out to be tangent to the vital sphere of man, as existence itself is a single, large and complicated doubt that man will never be able to resolve, since, in the finitude of his dimension, man does not it can and should not pretend to enclose the infinity and limitlessness of the world in a defined space.

Both doubt and certainty have two facets.

Originally, it was Socrates who invested with his own doubt the false certainties of those who believed themselves to be wise.

Socrates’ doubt, however, was not a skeptical and absolute doubt: while considering himself ignorant, he “knew he did not know.” That is, he knew something more than the others, who were completely ignorant. Socrates is “more than anyone else doubtful ”, therefore it can not help but sow doubts, and makes other men also doubtful, that is critical of themselves, and that they recognize their own limits.

Doubt is not pleasant, but only from it, only from restlessness, only from the crisis (etymologically understood) can a continuous search be born, which leads to discovering the real structure of the world and accepting the essence of things.

From the positivist point of view, doubt denotes an openness towards confrontation and the ability to question not only the single individual, but also the whole community.

Certainty is ridiculous, as it is foolishly presumptuous and arrogant.

Being excessively certain and sure of one’s ideas leads to isolation in a world in which everything that is the object of one’s thought is the one and only acceptable truth, a truth that is not relative and on a human scale, but absolute. In the long term, this trend can lead to a hellish abyss, as shown by the (even recent) facts of world history, thus producing the opposite effect, that is to reduce man’s cognitive abilities to nothing, even destroying that quality, la “ratio”, which distinguishes it from animals.

Certainties, as the tragic events of the world wars testify, lead to absolutist tendencies, tendencies that are typical of “imbeciles” or “stupid” (imbeciles “, as the etymology of the word itself, from the Greek” baktrion “demonstrates followed by the Latin “baculum”, meaning stick that, in privative, it was an adjective used to describe a person without a stick and, figuratively speaking, without support, that is, lacking the stick of awareness, of the consciousness of the limits of the human mind.

Hitler programmatically committed, during the Second World War, the most execrable crime against humanity, the genocide of the Jews, because he was certain of his ideas, he was convinced that his plans were right, he did not doubt that he had to affirm the alleged “purity of the Aryan race ”through horrendous exterminations.

Certainty led to the birth of extremist movements, such as Nazism, the genocide of the Armenians, the persecution of the Serbs during the Second World War, the Rwandan massacre, and still leads to evidence of bloody massacres and moral baseness, by the heads of state and their followers.

The man full of certainties risks making the mistake of limiting the unlimited, of pronouncing the ineffable, of defining the indefinable, of making a transcendent and ethereal dimension earthly. Man beyond measure certainly makes the mistake of obeying his own prejudices and closing himself off from the experience of the world.

Of course, it cannot be denied, from another point of view, that it is unpleasant to always doubt, it is like always being in the balance, and often by doubting you can make a mistake. Not having certainty can also lead to a lack of self-confidence. After all, those that Voltaire defines as “stupid” are precisely those who manage to have an easier life, or at least based on some more security, since having certainties makes one appear more determined; not having any certainty, on the other hand, means showing everyone your weaknesses, your insecurities, as well as uncertainties.

But surely having too many certainties also has negative aspects. More often than not, being too sure of what does not turn out to be, so leads to suffering much more than one would suffer if one doubts.

Being certain of something, the certainty of which (perhaps) has been reached with difficulty and seeing it later denied, often plunges into an abyss from which it is then difficult to recover.

Therefore, one cannot and must never be “absolutely” certain of something. Perhaps, and sometimes, deluding oneself of having some certainty can help to live better, but we must always consider these certainties only as “probable”. This is the typical approach of scientists, who must never take their theories for certain, but, on the contrary, must subject them to continuous reworking, revision, and experimentation. Although science today allows us to cure serious diseases, build space probes, and communicate with the whole world, in real-time, we are very far from having revealed all the mysteries of nature. As knowledge increases, in fact, we realize that there is still much to discover.

It is not at all uncommon for new discoveries to raise more questions than they can provide: this is what stimulates scientific research and leads to continually modify or broaden one’s vision of the natural world. These frequent and necessary changes in knowledge and research do not “certainly” prove that science has failed; on the contrary, they are a testimony of his continuous and vital progress.

According to Plato and Aristotle, wonder is at the origin of wisdom. Wonder is the sense of amazement and uneasiness experienced by man when, having satisfied his immediate material needs, he begins to question himself about his existence and his relationship with the world.

Life must, therefore, surprise and arouse amazement and wonder, and every variable of it, pleasant or negative, unexpected or expected, known or unknown, must teach man humility, flexibility, the willingness to learn continuously, in order to grow and enhance his capacity for conscious and critical judgment in existence and on experience.

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

2 COMMENTS

  1. we have lost the richness of questioning, even in the most profound way.
    Doubt also helps us to have a sense of the limit, not to feel omnipotent and infallible.
    Doubt is not pleasant, but only from it, only from restlessness, only from the crisis (etymologically understood) can a continuous search be born,It is not at all uncommon for new discoveries to raise more questions than they can provide.

    I selected the above quotes from your wonderful article, Aldo. It is a great one and honestly is a seed for a book.

    We need what I call “balanced doubt”. What I mean sweet doubt as sweet stress is. It is the overlapping zone between little doubt and too much doubt. Too little doubt may not act as a trigger for more thinking. Too much doubt may restrict the movement of the mind.

    I wholeheartedly conform with your brilliant post.

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