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No Doubting Doubt

“Originality consists in thinking for yourself, not in thinking unlike other people.”
J. Fitzjames Stephen

In his New York Times Draft piece, Phillip Lopate says, “Doubt is my boon companion, the faithful St. Bernard ever at my side.” Doubt should not be seen as a weakness of intellect or character, especially in a contemporary American society that encourages glib certainty and conformity to orthodoxy. Rather, doubt is that Socratic gad fly that signals a pause before we presume, or spurs a skeptical inquisitiveness.

Echoing this thought was Daniel Hendrix, the CEO of Interface Inc., in the New York Times’ business section’s Corner Office interview, who extolled the virtues of an employee that could think “in the third dimension.” These are the people who will “come up with a different way to think about the problem, a different solution to the problem.”

Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, Albumen Carte-de-visite, 1870s.Curiosity is a core attitude we should be aware of as we consider our conversational lives. Doubts are among the seeds of random, spontaneous ideas that we plow into our conversational landscapes, and that flourish as we nurture them through inquisitive dialogue with others. Embrace your doubts.

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