Doubt and Certainty
Doubt and Certainty
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.“
When it comes to competition or argument, often those who doubt, lose, those who are certain, win. It’s the nature of the two contrasting points of view. I’ll admit upfront that I find it difficult to be objective here. I know that half the world, roughly, would change the wording of Russell’s statement: Fools and fanatics are full of doubts and the wise are certain. I don’t believe it. My experience, at least, does not back it up.
To oversimplify, progressive thinking people see all sides of a question in an attempt to get it right. Conservative thinking people hold to one answer as the truth. To grossly oversimplify, liberals are wishy-washy; conservatives are fixated. Progressives make lots of mistakes because they try lots of different things; conservatives do everything possible to prevent change and thus prevent mistakes from being corrected. Both sides have their challenges and their weaknesses. What to do?
As a self-proclaimed progressive, I want to say to conservatives: Don’t be afraid! Acknowledge the obvious truth that there are many ways to look at the world, not just one! And they probably want to say to me … well, I’m not sure what they want to say. Maybe something like: Don’t be so arrogant, how do you know our way is not indeed the right way? Well, that’s just the point, I don’t! But, I want to add, neither do you!
Problems get solved when there is free discussion, sharing of differing points of view, mutual respect, honest doubt, and so on. There’s nothing new here. Oh the frustration!
Of course I know that these fundamental differences will not change. I believe, however, that somehow we must grow―all of us―in our willingness and our skills to minimize them, to allow for peaceful consensus, to listen to each other more attentively and without threat. Our lives depend on it.
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