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The Purpose Of Doubt In Knowledge Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1284 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The more I know about knowledge, then the more doubt will develop into my mind. That is what I felt about doubt through experiences in my life. We usually have doubt when we find it hard to belief our accept something as the truth. Doubts exist when our mind is in process of accessing something whether to belief or not to believe. When we are 100% confident about something that we think is true, then we will never misunderstood the idea that had been brought in the first place. Maybe without doubt, we would never come across the word “evolution” because evolution is about some facts that are due to the feeling of doubt. Key is something that can bring us nearer to the truth and as generator to the knowledge that we seek for. Doubt will lead us to find two form of knowledge. First is the doubt in knowledge which can help us to get clearer knowledge when we try to prove the claim made is true or not, second is the doubt in knowledge will lead us to discover and explore a new knowledge. Persian proverb says that “doubt is the key to knowledge” because from doubt, we have the feeling to know about something and perhaps will lead us to get clearer knowledge or new knowledge. We need to fulfill certain criteria before we can acknowledge something as a knowledge, such as it must be justified by empirical evidence, logic, memory or public authority. Without this criteria, a claimed knowledge made by scientist or historian can be myth. History and Mathematics are two different area of knowledge that can help us to find at what extent doubt is used as an element to discover new knowledge.

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History is a subjective parts of area of knowledge and its talks about people and events of the past. It is not just the compilation of the past that is being recorded solely without any research and discussion, but after the facts are being interpreted and analysed into something significant. Lets take an example of a history about Piltdown man. For instance, in 1912, a paleoantropologist, Charles dawson claimed he have found human skull in England belong human ancestor aged about 500 thousand years ago or known as Dawson’s down-man. According to him, it is a pioneer evidence of human evolution. Most experts agreed that these specimens age about 500 thousand years old and being displayed in museums for more than 40 years. But out of sudden a few scientist doubt about the specimens was from human ancestor because the skull fragment and the jawbone obviously from two difference species. A few attempts were made by scientists to prove this claim was wrong but they did not succeed. Later, because of the advance in technology, a paleonthologist, Kenneth Oakley has tried the technology of flourine testing on Piltdown man in order to determine the actual age of the fossils. He applied the technology on the fossil and he found that the fossil is just a few thousand years not 500 thousand years as claimed by Dawson. Further investigation was made and it is found that the fossil is combination of human skull and ape. A conclusion is made by paleontologists that Piltdown man is a join together of a piece of jigsaw puzzle with the right colour but wrong shape and was immediately removed from the museum. Piltdown man is an example that shows us that doubt can lead to get a clearer knowledge and can bring us and nearer to the truth.

In order to agree the knowledge in history can be gained because of doubt, we have to realize that it has it own limitation and weakness. The weakness is doubts solely cannot solve any puzzles that we are wonder about. It must be accompanied by scientific method. The scientific method itself still can be doubted because human who created method can still make mistake. Maybe in the next few years someone will discover that fluorine technique used to investigate the date of the fossil is not accurate and valid enough to test for age of the specimens. We have to be remembered that science always evolve as time passes by and it is not impossible that more advance techniques will be discovered until the actual date and time the fossil belong to can be revealed. Henry Fairfield Osborn said that “We have to be reminded over and over again that Nature is full of paradoxes”. His statement is made to remind people that those things that we see and expect in this world does not necessary true as a lot more thing we don’t know about nature and the most important thing is we did not exist at the time of the history real event mentioned. Sometimes, historian only made a speculation or lucky guess on the specimens they found as long as it met their theoretical expectations. So it can be understood that even an evolutionist will get the closest interpretation on the fossil findings when they doubt and willing to discuss among themselves.

In other area of knowledge such as Mathematics doubt is still exist but in different view and perspective. This is because Mathematics differs from history in a way that it is more to objective, less ambiguous, less open to interpretation and more clearly defined. Math is more to numbers and can be differentiate very clearly which one is wrong and which one is right or in other word the answer is not subjective. Mathematics knowledge arises from problems that we face everyday and the solution in Mathematics is free from both observation and induction. In mathematics, people not always doubt whether the knowledge claim by mathematician is true or not because mathematics have the ability of self-proving and its objectivity, but people do doubt whether the claim made by mathematician about certain theorem can be modified in order to form a more perfect theorem. The simplest example is prime number formula. The definition of prime number is the number which can divide by 1 and itself. As a student, I myself also have doubt why number 1 did not count as prime number while number 1 can be divided by 1 and itself. But for mathematicians, they doubt whether prime number have a formula so that it can cover all prime numbers until infinity. After fail to solve this problem, Mathematicians claim that this problem is unsolvable. This unsolvable problem remains for 2300 years. Although this problem remains unsolved for so long, that doest mean mathematician had give up. The doubt grows deeper until in year 2003, Professor.S.M.R Hashemi Moosavi found the formula for prime number. This shows that from doubt that prime number formula is unsolved, we now can enjoy the fruitful of the doubt although it takes decades or centuries.

However, no ones would know that claim made by Professor S.M.R Hashemi Moosavi is the most perfect one to suit the formula for prime number because at this time no one can prove his theorem is wrong. Unlike the previous Mathematician, they also once had claimed that they have found this formula, but it only last for a certain period because someone had proven it only applicable up to certain numbers, not included until the infinity. We also can doubt what the last number of prime number is since the ending of infinity itself is unknown.

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Having discussed doubt is the key to knowledge from the perspective of two areas of knowledge namely history and mathematics makes me realized that doubt do exist in the process of searching for knowledge. Although the process obtaining knowledge though the feeling of doubt is differ in History and Mathematics due to its subjectivity, objectivity and its nature, the final ending will bring us to only one destination; gaining knowledge. Therefore, doubt is the key to knowledge is agreed in these two areas of knowledge.


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