Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Review: The Will to Doubt



‘The Will to Doubt’, by Alfred H. Lloyd is an essay addressed to the general reader, or rather to the general thinker. Like the declaration by a great philosopher, Schopenhauer that man walks only by saving himself at every step from a fall, this book places doubt, as an essential element of ones belief. How, we continue reasserting our beliefs by constantly getting our doubts answered.
In introduction, author mentions the present times as the age of doubt.  The next chapter, The Confession of Doubt, examines the confession of doubt, of our doubt, and other aspects like how doubt is necessary to life, while explaining how, humans came to be dependent on one another as they are ‘universal doubters’. Difficulty in the ordinary view of things is explored next, as a variation between the physical or of the substance of matter, and, the ideal or of the substance of mind or spirit. When we come to next chapter, The View of Science: its Rise and Consequent, the author states of the challenge: “To understand and appraise the view of science we must trace its rise as clearly as we can, and then critically examine its peculiar conceits, its own ideal methods and attitudes”. Which is the theme of the coming chapter, Character V, the author, comparing how, tracks which limit the locomotive to a certain course are essential to its successful movement, mentions of the need for something of the same kind, in respect of science. Hence, he continues, we have attributed certain characteristics or limitations for science, giving rise to, The Objective nature of Science, How Science is Specialized, and Why not Science would not be Agnostic. Nature of experience it self is analyzed next. It is truly and essentially social, the book proclaims, no individual was meant to dwell alone, which is the trigger of an unperturbed brotherly love, and of a quiet life. An essential defect of experience, a doubt, must be for something good, the author exclaims, and goes on to examine the possible worth of the original defects of experience. The author concludes with projecting Descartes as the finest doubter in history, whose famous words Dubito, cogito; ergo sum. I doubt, I think; I as doubter and thinker am, places doubt in its prime position.

This book, though is a tough one to read, is a scholarly discourse on many aspects of common logic. The author has found the unmistakable presence of doubt as an integral part of our social history. “To come down to more recent times, for open belief in what they doubted, for doubt well controlled in its expenditure, for doubt as raising questions of meaning rather than the more radical questions of reality and existence, perhaps no people of Christendom has been so conspicuous as the English.” Is nothing but an acknowledgement that the questioning nature of the British was greatly relevant in forming the British Empire. Throughout the book, he presents a strong case for doubt as the initiator of every good thing the world went through, every sage the world has listened to reach in the end, five demonstrated facts: (1) We are all universal doubters. (2) Doubt is essential to all consciousness. (3) Even habit, though confidence be the horse, has doubt sitting up behind. (4) Like pain or ignorance, doubt is a condition of real life. (5) And the sense of dependence, so general to human nature, gives rise to doubt, although also, like misery, it always seeks company--the company of nature, of man, of God. By proclaiming that we believe through our doubts; we believe, not in something apart, but in the very things we doubt, the author places this as an essential feature of our existence. 

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