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“Doubt—because doubt is not a sin, it is a sign of your intelligence. You are not responsible to any nation, to any church, to any God. You are responsible only for one thing, and that is self knowledge. And the miracle is, if you can fulfill this responsibility, you will be able to fulfill many other responsibilities without any effort. The moment you come to your own being, a revolution happens in your vision. Your whole outlook about life goes through a radical change. You start feeling new responsibilities–not as some thing to be done, not as a duty to be fulfilled, but as a joy to do.” – Osho
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines “self knowledge” as knowledge of one’s own sensation, thoughts, beliefs, and other mental states.
Psychologists and philosophers alike have long acknowledged the role of perception in creating one’s reality. However, as Descartes suggested, doubting all forms of knowledge—including of the self—is essential to get rid of illusions and false knowledge that may hinder one’s capability of living a full life.
In her article “The Best Philosophy is Self-Knowledge”, published in the Intelligent Life magazine, psychotherapist Susan Orbach’s details the importance of doubt in assessing one’s beliefs. She writes, “We need to acknowledge that what we first think or feel may not reflect the whole truth. We need to question our knee-jerk responses to situations, to pause and consider them in greater depth, so that we can be sure we are not responding out of fear or prejudice.”
External doubt is as important as the internal. As apparent in the lives of remarkable men and women in the fields of science and philosophy, doubt is essential in exposing lies and uncovering the truth. Because of doubt, men like Copernicus and Da Vinci eliminated grave assumptions and led the way to further scientific truths.
Voltaire remarked about the absurdity of not questioning one’s beliefs. Apparently, internal and external doubts are both integral in making clear sense of the world and strengthening one’s identity. Questioning beliefs and challenging the world’s assumptions are thereby essential in fully realizing mankind’s purpose and acquiring real knowledge.