notions of doubting

For this forum we want to focus on the notion of doubt.

Normally, we tend to think that doubt is a bad or negative thing;in school for example, we strive for the right answers; in normal US daily activity, we try to get things done, be productive, and proceed with our activities.“Doubt” is not seen as a value.

All semester both directly and indirectly, explicitly and implicitly we have seen how important doubt is in philosophy.

The prisoners in Plato’s cave suffered because in part because they did not know to doubt the reality of the shadows that constituted most of their daily lives.

Socrates in the Apology walked around Athens teaching people the importance of doubting their lives and values—he taught them to all into question what they saw, felt, and thought.

In the Sermon that we read, we saw Jesus putting into question people’s standard way of behaving.

Now in Descartes, doubt becomes the basis for his first Meditation, an essential step on his way to understanding the soul, god, truth, and reality.Put simply, he is saying that without active, conscious doubt one can never get to these higher order values and insights.

Consequently, I want everyone to practice and try out doubting for Forum 2.

After very carefully reading Descartes’ Meditation 1 and reviewing the videos on Descartes that I posted, I want you to go into your neighborhood for a walk, drive, or short trip.Spend about 45 minutes walking, driving, or just wandering.

Once you have done this, ask yourself: “What can I doubt?”

Write 2-5 paragraphs responding to this.Use the following format for this forum

  • Concise introduction stating where you are and in a sentence what you are doubting and the basic reason why.If you do not want to share the actual location, you may fictionalize.I don’t care which location you choose, but I want there to be one. Otherwise, philosophy is abstract and empty.
  • Write 1-3 paragraphs on what can be doubted about what you see.Explain why you can doubt this.These paragraphs should have at least two examples of things that happen or at least could conceivably happen. You may be an active member of the experience or stay at a distance and just observe and oversee.
  • Conclude with a traditional summary


Include a 2-5 minute video of your trip/walk and narrate what you can doubt and why.If you want someone to video you interacting that is fine but you can also just narrate something that you are observing.

Let me give a few examples.

  • From a bridge over the Capital Beltway, I might video a 6pm traffic jam and ask questions about why this is happening.I would be putting into question why it is happening. “I see this enormous traffic jam that occurs near where I live every night of the work week.I wonder why people are forced to waste hours of their days like this.Why does this happen?Why does no one protest?
  • Outside my metro there are always homeless people. This is especially horrible in poor weather.I might put into question why this has to happen.I would be doubting that it has to happen. Isn’t there another way?

Reminder 2: Be sure to read Descartes well before starting this

Tip; Try to quote Descartes once in your forum response

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