Doubt, Socrates and Knowing

If there is an empirically derived epistemology of doubt as the highest wisdom, I’d like to read it, I’d like it explained to me. Until then, and most likely even after then, I cannot see that our ending in doubt of all knowledge is the same thing as Socrates “What do I know? What can I know? What are the limits of knowledge?” I know nothing is the beginning of philosophy, the starting point in all epistemological inquiry. Inquiry here the key.

As Socrates noted, philosophy begins with a posed doubt to determine what is known, what is knowable, and what the boundaries of knowledge are. These cannot however be determined within a persistent doubt that is the summit of all knowing. Erasing categorical boundaries does lead to confusion, confusion like cacophony like that of chaos, the rude and shapeless mass within which there is no light to discern anything. Chaos is the total absence of knowledge, herein metaphorically expressed by light. However, light has its literal and optical connection to seeing and what is seen. Definition in objects and all colors of objects, for instance, are determined by light. The reflection of light; the refraction, that is, the diffusion of light as well determine what and how we see. A red shirt is black in the dark. Where there is no light, all things are black; black defined as the absence of light; white the coalescence of all bands in the spectrum. This has unfortunate subliminal effects on our social consciousness; this is one of the firmest and truest reasons to shift from ‘black’ to African American.

Everyone to his dark night of the soul, but when a civilization rests on doubt as we do, this dark night pervades the mind and affects all thinking thus. Doubt, as I have said before, has become the highest wisdom.  We have not examined the consequences of this ever growing doubt.  We do doubt that anything can be known, or that there is anything that is knowable. All ignorance begins with a simple act of ignoring. Doubt is a darkening of the world.

There are people who doubt knowledge can be attained, or that knowing is possible. They do, by their actions and thoughts, insist that we must doubt our epistemological traditions, or narrow them, or deny them, or ignore them. For these people the only veracity is in their minds; their minds darkened by their persistent doubting, doubting, doubting. Knowledge is light. To reject knowledge is to reject the light. Doubt is a preference for shadows at best. Doubt can be healthy at times, to an extent. Doubt helps us avoid hubris, arrogance, assumptions. But what we have done instead is to open the void, the abyss, and leave all prey to that horrible vacuum Nietzsche warned us that Nature abhors.


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