Doubt Is The Key To Knowledge

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25th Apr 2017 Philosophy Reference this

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Doubt is the feeling of uncertain towards the truth. Persian proverb says that ‘doubt is the key to knowledge’. The ‘key’ here means that the uncertain feelings bring us closer to the truth and making the level of knowledge increases. But, is it applicable in our daily life? Does doubt keeps someone to expand his knowledge in everyday life? If in a situation, an IB student doubt either he would pass or not in the examination, would his uncertain feeling causes his knowledge to expand? As for me, I think I would struggle hard because I do not have the confidence to pass the IB examination. And of course, I will expand my knowledge. But, here in this essay, we are going to discuss to what extent doubt brings us closer to the truth in different two areas of knowledge. In this essay, we are going to discuss whether doubt triggers or hinders the search for knowledge in two areas of knowledge, which are History and Natural Science.

From the point of view of History, doubt can widen our knowledge. If someone does not believe about some historical facts, this would cause him to search information to find the truth. The person may not believe about the fact as he did not see the event by himself. There is a saying said that, ‘seeing is believing’. By seeing, then only the person would believe. But, as History is the story about the past, the person could not move the time backwards. Therefore, the person can only start searching for the information through the historical books, journals, and other related materials to get a better understanding about the event and to prove that the event really happened. And this eventually leads the person to gain extra information than he needed. For example, if a person could not believe that the Abbasids’ rule was ruined by the Mongol people, he would also know the reason why Mongol people managed to sack Abbasids’ capital in Baghdad, the attitude of Abbasids’ people during the attack and many other related information about the fall of the Abbasid caliphate when he searched the information about it. He would also be acquainted with the leader of the Mongols. Thus, based from the explanation and example given, these strongly prove that doubt in History can increase knowledge by bringing the knowledge closer to the truth.

Next, if we are looking in Natural Science, doubt leads to more research, which means that it also leads to new findings. The uncertain feeling towards some existing theories leads the scientist to do research about it. The scientist would firstly made assumption through logic based from the theory he felt uncertain about. Then he has to formulate hypothesis and design appropriate experiment in order to prove that the existing theory is false and he also has to come up with a new theory based on his experiment. This process is called falsification, introduced by a philosopher, Karl Popper. Before establishing a new theory, there would be many practical experiment conducted and of course, many new discoveries found. This would also expand the knowledge when the experiment conducted show any unexpected results. For example, the periodic table has undergone many rearrangement and falsification processes by the previous scientist before it is being established as the modern and most reliable periodic table, created by Dmitri Mendeleev. The establishment of this modern periodic table was also due to the development of quantum mechanics theories by other scientist. Therefore, doubt in Natural Science trigger the scientist to carry out many researches in order to make progress in expanding the knowledge.

Apart from that, doubt sometimes becomes the inhibitor to knowledge. Let us now discuss why doubt cannot become the ‘key’ to knowledge in History and Natural Science.

Well, doubt in History will not become the key to knowledge if it stands on its own. Due to limitation like emotion, the uncertain feeling towards the historical facts solely will not bring knowledge closer to the truth. The expanding of knowledge is limited by emotion means that the knower himself did not want to belief about new facts or findings that contradicts from what he believed. When a new fact is revealed by the historians, he would feel uncertain about the fact because the fact is totally different from his belief. And if he still wants to stick with his belief, he will not gain any knowledge. In History, it took time to change someone’s paradigm and if he was reluctant to be open-minded, the true knowledge will not be discovered. For example, during British’s rule in Malaya, there were many local heroes who always protest against the government to fight for the rights of the Malayan. They were Dato’ Bahaman, Tok Janggut, Syarif Masahor, and many more. Local folks said that they were very (berjasa) to the country and their names were (dijulang). But, there were new facts that reveals about the truth of those warriors. They were actually gangsters. They were not as kind as the local folks thought. But, many local folks did not believe on these statements. They just ignore their uncertain feeling and they keep the faith that those heroes were very (berjasa) to the country. Therefore, the emotion of the knowers here inhibit in the search for the knowledge in History.

Next, in Natural Science, doubt will become the inhibitor to knowledge when there is too much doubt. If the scientist is not certain about many things, he will not gain any information from his uncertain feelings. Excessive doubt will make something become more complex and the scientist might become confused too. When the theory becomes complex, the experiment to falsify the theory will become more complicated. And without the suitable and appropriate apparatus, the scientist cannot make any progress from the theory that he felt uncertain. As for an example, the existence of aliens or the living creatures from other planets cannot be proven true or false until nowadays. The technology that we have nowadays still cannot find the truth about them. To conclude here, in Natural Science, too much doubt will become a hindrance in gaining knowledge.

We have seen that how doubt works as the key to knowledge in History and Natural Science. We also have known in what conditions doubt becomes a hindrance in gaining the knowledge. Doubt is very important to bring the knowledge closer and closer to the truth. However, we must not doubt too much in both History and Natural Science. We might ignore the excessive doubt that we have and finally no new knowledge will be discovered. Therefore, we must have an equal level between doubts and confident before accepting and believing the truth. Hence, doubt can be considered as the ‘main’ key in gaining knowledge.

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