Doubt, from the Latin dubitare (“to hesitate,”
originally “to choose between two things”),
describes a state of uncertainty or undecided wavering with regard to something that can be
taken as either true or false. We differentiate
between theoretical, moral, and religious doubt.
Doubt requires critical thinking; it can simultaneously
possess methodological significance
and also constitute a preliminary stage of understanding,
as with Saint Augustine (“Si fallor
sum,” “If I am mistaken, I am”) and René Descartes.
In the pre-Enlightenment period, doubt
was considered a sin, an evil to be eliminated
without delay. As a permanent condition, doubt
was thought to lead to despair. In scientific, philosophical,
and practical thought, doubt is the
factor that keeps the mind in motion. Without
doubt, understanding is impossible.
Vilém Flusser calls doubt a state of mind with
many meanings, one that puts an end to all certainty.
In the book Da Dúvida [On Doubt], written
in 1963–1964, he states: “In moderate doses
it stimulates thought. In excessive doses, it
paralyzes all mental activity.” (On Doubt, 2014,
p. 3) And though belief is the state of mind from
which doubt proceeds, “[t]he naivety and innocence
of the spirit dissolve in the corrosive acid
of doubt” (ibid.). Thus initial and authentic certainties
gradually disappear. An extension of the
Cartesian “Cogito ergo sum” would be “I doubt,
therefore I am.”
Flusser counters: I am a stream of thoughts that doubt. In this formulation, one thought follows another, since the first thought requires a second thought to be sure of itself. The thought experiment of doubting doubt is the theoretical aspect of radical doubt, the intellectualization of the intellect. Total intellectualization, however, leads to nihilism. René Descartes’s doubt is the preservation of belief in intellect.
Original article by Eckhard Fürlus in Flusseriana