For or against modernity? For or against capitalism? For or against Catalonia’s independence? For or against collaborative economy? For or against globalisation? And tourism? Reality confronts us with an endless list of questions that often demand a yes or no answer.
Sometimes the media, sometimes political parties, in our daily life, in fact, any gathering or organised group of people of which we are a part demands that we take sides, unequivocally and without hesitation. The for or against positions we face are clear-cut because it is precisely around certainties that social groups expand and consolidate, whatever the cause they champion. Thus, the fewer doubts we have the more integrated we shall be: if we have no doubts about the leader, so much the better, if none about the alliances, perfect; and if we have no doubts about the strategy, all will go smoothly.
Besides, the fast pace of daily life in our society, the political agendas, the electoral cycles, the business dynamics, and even our own personal agendas help all those who have no doubts, or those who, if they have any, dispel them quickly without wasting time. There is no time to doubt, there is no time for doubting. Doubting is rather more a problem than a solution.
Anybody who, despite everything, persists in doubting, is labelled an undecided person. The connotation being, of course, negative, because and undecided person is somebody who does not make up his mind, that wonders, postpones taking a decision, does not take sides, makes no commitments, does not “take the plunge”. By contrast, there are those who have no doubts, or who solve them quickly, are committed to the cause and have got things clear. Very probably, this clear mindedness is in many cases the result of a prior reflection process. In many other cases, however, quick side taking is the result of skipping one step. There has been no doubting.
But, what does doubting mean? The etymology of the word “doubt” comes from the Latin dubium that belongs to the same family as duo, that is to say, two. It implies the act of choosing one of two options. Doubting, therefore, is the time we take to make a decision about two or more options. And it is while we are doubting that we listen to the two positions or the different options about a specific issue. Doubting implies reasoning. The very act of doubting allows for listening to others, for appreciating the interest of certain arguments, for revisiting one’s own political beliefs, for recognising one’s prejudices and opinions based on questionable reasoning, and for ascertaining whether the opinions we hold are truly our own or whether we are unthinkingly repeating arguments we have heard. Therefore, it is through doubting that we finally choose a path, the one we deem best. Already Descartes argued in favour of methodic doubt as a provisional and deliberate means to discovering the truth. Or, at the very least, to discovering what we believe in, our truth.
However, how many decisions are taken without hesitation? Without appraising different options? Without listening to others and without reviewing the initial position? How many decisions are taken daily without doubting? Sometimes out of personal interest towards a person or group. Other times, out of sheer conformism, to remain well integrated in a specific group, or simply out of cowardice, or timidity, for fear of holding an opinion different from that of the majority. In the personal sphere, how many decisions could we have avoided if we had mulled things over? If we had allowed ourselves the time to dispel doubts? And in the social sphere, how many decisions have we defended or attacked for egotistical reasons, without thinking objectively about the various options? Finally, in the public sphere, how much money could be saved if due respect and attention were paid to the doubts raised about certain public policies?
Doubting is part of our human condition. A mature society, therefore, is one in which doubts have their place and are managed adequately for the benefit of the individuals and the community. A modern society is one in which both those who have clear positions and those who express doubts are equally respected. I, personally, have no doubts about it. It is necessary to give doubting its due, among other reasons, because it makes us more human.