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On Doubt...


Doubt is such a scary thing. We are taught never to doubt, and even creative people can fall into the trap of not doubting their own ideas. But if we can openly accept that things may or may not be right, whilst also not being wrong (in the judgmental sense), we will perhaps be able to see just a little further. And that is often far enough.

See also

certainty*, challenge, curiosity, daring, deviation, failure, impossibility, judgement*, openness*, science, seeing, thinking, truth*


‘True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubts not; he knows all things but his own ignorance.’


‘Let every student of nature take this as his rule that whatever the mind seizes upon with particular satisfaction is to be held in suspicion.’

Francis Bacon

‘If a Man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he will end in certainties.’

Francis Bacon

‘If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.’

René Descartes

‘Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.’

Clarence Darrow

‘To have doubted one’s own first principles, is the mark of a civilized man.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong.’

Richard P. Feynman

‘The way to be safe is never to be secure.’

Benjamin Franklin

‘Doubt is the father of invention.’

Galileo Galilei

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.’

André Gide

‘We know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge doubt enters.’

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

‘Give me the benefit of your convictions, if you have any; but keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own.’

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

‘Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.’

George Iles

‘Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door.’

Benjamin Jowett

‘Negative capability, that is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

John Keats

‘It is only doubt that creates.’

H. L. Mencken

‘I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.’

Wilson Mizner

‘Men become civilised, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.’

H. L. Mencken

‘Doubt everything or believe everything: these are two equally convenient strategies. With either we dispense with the need for reflection.’

Henri Poincaré

‘The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.’

Franklin D. Roosevelt

‘In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.’

Bertrand Russell

‘Modest doubt is call’d the beacon of the wise.’

William Shakespeare

‘Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.’

William Shakespeare

‘When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself.’

Mark Twain

‘If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’

Vincent Van Gogh

‘Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.’


‘To believe is very dull. To doubt is intensely engrossing. To be on the alert is to live, to be lulled into security is to die.’

Oscar Wilde



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