Is doubt good?

I saw the movie Doubt last night.  It was… eh… it wasn’t bad, it was better than I thought it would be, but it wasn’t that good either, in my opinion.  You can definitely tell it’s based on a stage play, and if you’ve been to a few stage plays you might recognize it’s style: pacing is different, there are long conversations, little music, little action, lots of talking.  Not necessarily boring conversations, sometimes quite engaging conversations, that’s an area playwrites can be brilliant at while most films move much quicker.

Anyway, one of the themes of the film was, not surprisingly, doubt.  Which is a nice coincidence since I was just reading a book (and still haven’t finished it) called Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson.  I mentioned the book a few posts earlier; it’s about the history of questioning religion, the history of people doubting.  The philosophical question is: is doubt good?

From a scientific point of view, yes, of course, one should always be questioning.  That’s what leads to more experiments, more discoveries, and a better knowledge of our world.  And you do experiments to try to prove your guesses wrong; that’s often the easiest way to go about it.  And when you can’t prove yourself wrong, you know your theory may be on to something.

But with religion, you can’t do experiments.  You can’t even get God (or Zeus, or whatever) to talk to you man to man.  So what’s the use of doubt?  It becomes not an act of experimentation, not a question spoken out loud, but a thought, something to think your way through (of course you can talk about it with others, but your answers won’t be emperical).

I think a good faith embraces the questioning of itself.  That might seem contradictory; how can faith really be faith if it’s being questioned?  On the other hand, how can faith really be faith if it’s never questioned?  Isn’t that blind faith, and thus, not faith at all?  But faith being questioned isn’t true faith either, it’s uncertainty.  But isn’t that the way to faith?  Through uncertainty and questions and doubt?  After all, if you had perfect faith in everything you believed in, you’d be perfect.  You would do everything right and always be pleased with yourself.  You’d always be happy, I would think.  You would never face any moral dilemmas.  And I bet a lot of people would envy you.

In college, I sometimes came across people who thought they had all the answers and went around campus advertising their religion… but they really didn’t have all the answers, they just didn’t have any questions.  Ask them about some moral dilemma or about the nature of God and they only gave empty answers, like “Well, God is mysterious!”  Well… yeah!  A mystery is something you don’t know!  That God is thought of as “mysterious” is an indication of an imperfect faith.  And I would think faith must be imperfect for us, it’s ingrained in the very nature of our humanness.

So, in a way, to doubt, to question, is to have faith… faith in faith.

But what about atheists?  (Some might even say that atheism is a faith, and the only way to really have no faith is to not be human, or to not have life at all.)  Would it be equally beneficial for an atheist to doubt and question their own atheism?  Is “blind” atheism really atheism?  Are atheists that are certain with themselves just not asking any questions, or giving empty answers?

Obviously science doesn’t have all the answers, or at least we can’t find them all right now.  But does that mean the answers aren’t there?  Scientists still spend plenty of time looking and questioning… isn’t that faith?  Faith that answers exist, that there does exist a knowable truth?

So… is doubt good?  I don’t know… it implies an imperfect faith, and is therefore bad… but it’s required to arrive at a more perfect faith, and is therefore good…

Blah blah blah blah . . .

Logic is illogical

It’s been very busy here.  In addition to having house guests (who left near the end of last week), someone quit at the place I work (a part-time job, still don’t have a full-time, and not really anxious for one), and I picked up a lot of additional hours that I’m still not quite used to.  My hours just about tripled.  I don’t mind at all the extra money this will bring in, but I have to get used to the new schedule.  This week it’s been a bit exhaustive, but hopefully I’ll get used to it and get into the groove of things.

I finished reading Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique last week, and posted some quotes on my Book Quotes blog.  ‘Twas a good book, I recommend it… I’d like to buy it in paperback if/when it comes out.

I’m now reading Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht.  I read somewhere (maybe on the author’s website?) that the author originally wanted to call the book “A History of Atheism” or something.  That’s basically what it is, the history of the questioning of religion, or doubting it.  That said, it’s not a book of “why atheism is correct” or “why religion is correct” … it doesn’t really seem to make any religious judgments itself, it’s more a “history of religious philosophy” book.  For someone like me who doesn’t know much about history, or religious history for that matter, it’s very educational.

So far, I’ve only read the first two chapters (which are the first 85 pages), and there seem to be qutie a few philosophers of old who questioned how we can really know anything or what the point is of questioning things is when answers cannot be obtained.

But maybe how we humans understand logic in the first place is fundamentally flawed in a way we can do nothing about.

So often we think in terms of cause and effect, an event and a reason for it, a “why?” for everything.

For many things, this seems logical.  Something happens, we ask “why?”, we come up with a reason, and that’s that.  The trouble is, we can always keep asking “why?” again.  And again.  Ad infinitum.  This usually leads us to some point where we can go no further, a point where we have to say “I don’t know” and that’s that.  But even if we could come up with answer, what would be the point?  We would just ask “why?” again, and it would have to go on forever.  Every event would have to have an infinite number of causes, going backwards for eternity.  If it goes on forever, then isn’t that the same as there being no answer at all?  There can be no end point.

One could cheat, and go in circles.  “Why are you the boss?”  “Because I tell people what to do!”  “Why?”  “Because I’m the boss!”  Of course, such circular logic is considered a logical fallacy.  But real logic isn’t always much more helpful, even though it seems to make more sense to the mind.  But if logic isn’t circular, is it linear?  A line that goes on forever?  That’s just as useless as a circle!  In fact, just about every shape logic could be in is useless.  (Well, depending on what you’re using it for.)  The whole cause and effect, one thing from another, dominoes of logic . . . ultimately I think it’s a flawed way of looking at the universe, of trying to discover truth.  But right now I have no earthly (or heavenly or hellish) idea of what it could be replaced with.

I’m sure these are not new thoughts for the world, but . . . well, there it is.  Logic is illogical!  Don’t ask me why!  Let me know if you have heard of any philosophers who have had similar thoughts, as I should very much like to read about them.  There’s gotta be someone out there, some form of thought I haven’t heard of yet…

On an unphilosophical note, I had a weird dream a few nights ago.  Near the end of it, a bunch of people gave me a bunch of presents, and it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas or anything.  Being quite astounded at my good fortune, I thought “this must be a dream!  I’m going to wake myself up!” and with some strange mysterious semi-lucid mental process, I awoke myself.  It was like my uncontrollable subconscious willingly giving control back to the my real conscious self.  It was a really strange strange experience.

I call the blog “Blather” so I can blather ya know!

That’s all for now.  Oh, in case you missed it, I posted a YouTube video a few days ago right here.  It’s a piece I’m hoping will be on my first album, which I’m hoping will be finished this year.