The as doubt? The problem of doubt in

The statement establishes the relationship between knowledge, confidence, and doubt. The word ‘knowledge’ can be known as the understanding of facts, familiarity of information, skills which are derived from different ways of knowing through one’s personal experience or education. The subjective requirement for knowledge is ‘confidence’, it is a feeling of trust and believes in one’s own ability and judgement. JW von Goethe’s statement implies that “knowing little forms our certainty and with a larger amount of knowledge, doubt increases”. This causes me to generate an interesting knowledge question: ‘How do ways of knowing illustrate the relationship between confidence level and the amount of knowledge?’ Does this imply confidence is the same as knowing little? Knowing more is the same as doubt? The problem of doubt in this statement is that the feeling of uncertainty in any claims of any knowledge isn’t a negative thing. These knowledge issues can demonstrate itself in contrasting areas of knowledge such as Mathematics and human sciences.


Firstly, concerning the issue of the amount of knowledge that affects one’s confidence level, a further question has been developed which is whether knowledge can be quantified? In the world of natural science, the scientific method takes the most important part of the experiment in order to let the scientists and experimenters establish their own theories. In order to enhance the experiment comprehensiveness and trustworthiness of the established theory, statistics are usually adopted in the presentation of the data. In statistics, the importance of sample size (n) should not be overlooked, this is because when the sample sizes increase, the accuracy of the sample will be increased and will reflect the population that has been drawn. In my environmental science experiment about testing different plant growth rates in different biomes, rather using only 1 sample to test each customized biomes’ plant growth rate, 5 samples have been used for testing to obtain more accurate data and prove the established hypothesis. Through obtaining larger sample size, a better determination of average values of the data can be calculated, the range of errors between samples can be further minimized, therefore, the accuracy of data can be enhanced. Regarding with larger sample sizes which lead to the accuracy of the data and more accurate theory will be established in the world of natural science, hence, more accurate of knowledge can be passed to society. When there are more accurate of knowledge and theories have been distributed from natural science, people will perceive the theories as the truth since they see the presentation from scientists are reasonable and they believe in those theories with faith with less questions and doubts especially the scientists are known as authoritative person.

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On top of that, natural scientists seek to set experiments and statistical testing to prove their hypotheses in order to be capable to discover the law of nature. However, some of the established claims or theories might be generalized, hence, ambiguity may occur. Therefore, there are counterclaims about larger census size does not relate to the higher ability and accuracy of knowledge. Any experiments may occur anomalies or outliers. An example of anomaly is a paradigm shift. It is defined as the fundamental radical theory change of a scientific discipline which demonstrates the characteristic of scientific revolution. One of the examples of paradigm shifts will be Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection that comes after the statement of God creates all living things on the Earth perfectly. The statement of God suggests that there are no longer any changes from what God creates since he creates perfect things. Darwin’s theories suggest species will evolve naturally by mating naturally and hence, new species may further introduce. This has contradicted with the statement of God, arguments on creating are never-ending in which different stands will be formed and doubts and questions will be created. The phenomenon of such paradigm shift shows even some theories were repeated or proved for its certainty back then, there are still theories are inaccurate and anomalies may give rights to doubt. As more information gathered about a situation, might cause more unexplained human behaviors and reactions appeared.

Another example to support Goethe’s statement will be supported by “Joan” case. David Peter Reimer was first born as a male but had been raised as female after her external genital was destroyed from an accident and sex reassignment surgery. Reimer’s realization of his sex status as he was not a girl between 9 and 11. Due to limited knowledge from social learning in childhood and raising as a girl by parents, Reimer was confidence he was still a girl without hesitation when meeting with psychologist John Money. However, at the age of 15 Reimer has been transitioned to live as a male. His/her life was never easy, through receiving bullies from peers, confusions with his/her gender identity under collecting information about gender role and so on, Rimier had ended up committing suicide after a long period of time of suffering severe emotional disorder and troubled marriage. In “John/Joan” case, it shows Remier was satisfied with how he/she was raised till 15 due to gaining more knowledge and perspectives from the society, doubts and questions about his/her gender identity had been increased under the pressures from society. When the knowledge that we have is limited, we know with confidence. When you diving into a bit more, you start to question everything. Hence, the more knowledge we have about the situation, the more doubt we have causes us to overthink the situation.


Everything in life is circumstantial and unique to each case. For some specific knowledge,

your doubt doesn’t grow in depth; suspicion reduces as your understandings grow in depth. For example, the phenomena of immigration. As a student learning Geography, I learnt about the social activities and behaviors of human beings. When I first learn the case study of Mexican immigrants in the United States. With lack of related knowledge and little understanding of the situation of ‘immigration’, it causes me to question it. I wonder ‘Why do Mexicans immigrate? “What factors affect their human behaviors?” This phenomenon causes me to question it. After spending times to research and gain relevant information from reading ‘A Seventh Man’ written by John Berger and Jean Mohr. I finally get to know the answer: “People move in the hope of a better life.” In this knowledge-seeking process, I get to know more of the complicated backgrounds and factors affecting the phenomenon of immigration. The communal sharing of knowledge in the society helps me to expand my knowledge on this immigration case study. Besides, questioning in the knowledge-seeking process can actually lead to more knowledge and more certainty, in the end, allows me to correct current knowledge and gaining self-confidence.


Besides, although this statement is a quote from Goethe, it is also a reference to the phenomenon in Psychology, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is a situation refers to a cognitive bias where people who are really underqualified and unable to assess their intellectual ability tend to overestimate their sense of self-importance. Illusory superiority occurs mainly due to their high confidence level. With lack of self-awareness, they tend to underestimate the actual competence and with a misconception of tasks are easy for them to commit. “Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence” (2003) in an in-depth investigation of this psychological phenomenon indicates that confidence can be driven by ignorance. Such misbelief of self-assessment of competence derives from individual’s ignorance of themselves on evaluating their abilities and considering how good they have performed. Some faulty debating on this idea indicating that “Ignorance is bliss”. They would rather stay blissfully unaware, indicating that not knowing the truth or lack of knowledge in certain situations might be happier and comfortable than knowing it.


However, the Dunning-Kruger Effect in Psychology is often true. “Wisest is she who knows she does not know” is a quote from the book ‘Sophie’s World’ written by Jostein Gaarder. Socrates strongly agree with this this statement. He admitted the fact of his own ignorance. He admitted that he is not knowledgeable and realize that he doesn’t know everything there is to know. As Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” This causes people to understand every certain answer can be wrong at some point, keeping us to have doubt about everything without having high self-confidence and certainty of its truth. With more knowledge, it begets more questioning from human. When you have opened a new researching area, doubt increases.


Overall, in areas like natural science and human science, as you dig deeper into the unknown of the situation, it begets more questioning. As with more knowledge, curiosity aroused, and the root of curiosity is doubt. Yet, the answer to this question is very much subjective to the nature of knowledge seekers. There is no specific yes or no answer to this statement. Sometimes more knowledge can lead to doubt, and sometimes it can lead to more clarity and understanding. It depends on what situation are you looking at. Everything in life is circumstantial and unique to each case. There are no rules in life to suit all situations. The future cannot be predicted and everything depends on many circumstances, most of which we cannot imagine. Understanding this fact can free us from being too rigid and make us realize that everything can be one way or the other.



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