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quotations about doubt

Most men appear wiser in their doubts than in their belief.

NORMAN MACDONALD, Maxims and Moral Reflections

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.

HENRI POINCARÉ, Of Science and Hypotheses

If we had the courage to confront the doubts we timidly conceive about ourselves, none of us would utter an 'I' without shame.

EMILE CIORAN, A Short History of Decay

A belief which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition.

JOSÉ BERGAMÍN, El cohete y la estrella

Doubt must be no more than vigilance, otherwise it can become dangerous.

G.C. LICHTENBERG, "Notebook F," Aphorisms

Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.

THOMAS SZASZ, "Mental Illness," The Second Sin

I slept with faith and found a corpse in my arms on awakening; I drank and danced all night with doubt and found her a virgin in the morning.


Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.

H.L. MENCKEN, as quoted in James A. Haught's 2000 Years of Disbelief

When in doubt, punt!


If you turned the fabric of our lives over, I imagined the design on the backside would be woven in the bleak grays of doubt and fear.


Doubt, it seems to me, is the central condition of a human being in the twentieth century.

SALMAN RUSHDIE, London Observer, Feb. 19, 1989

Truth lies within the Holy of Holies, in the temple of knowledge, but doubt is the vestibule that leads unto it. Luther began by having his doubts, as to the assumed infallibility of the Pope, and he finished by making himself the corner stone of the reformation. Copernicus, and Newton, doubted the truth of the false systems of others, before they established a true one of their own; Columbus differed in opinion with all the old world, before he discovered a new one; and Galileo's terrestrial body was confined in a dungeon, for having asserted the motion of those bodies that were celestial. In fact, we owe almost all our knowledge, not to those who have agreed, but to those who have differed; and those who have finished by making all others think with them, have usually been those who began by daring to think with themselves; as he that leads a crowd, must begin by separating himself some little distance from it.


Doubt is the tax man pays for the luxury of useless knowledge.

IVAN PANIN, Thoughts

There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.


May there always be a little faith in your doubt.

MACRINA WIEDERKEHR, The Song of the Seed

Doubt is the vestibule which all must pass before they can enter into the temple of wisdom; therefore, when we are in doubt and puzzle out the truth by our own exertions, we have gained a something that will stay by us, and which will serve us again. But, if to avoid the trouble of the search we avail ourselves of the superior information of a friend, such knowledge will not remain with us; we have not bought but borrowed it.


With knowledge grows doubt.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe

The minute you begin to have doubts, the floor under your feet starts to shake.

KOBO ABE, The Green Stockings

Nothing is more durable than the dynasty of Doubt; for he reigns in the hearts of all his people, but gives satisfaction to none of them, and yet he is the only despot who can never die, while any of his subjects live.


Like belief, doubt takes a lot of different forms, from ancient Skepticism to modern scientific empiricism, from doubt in many gods to doubt in one God, to doubt that recreates and enlivens faith and doubt that is really disbelief.

JENNIFER MICHAEL HECHT, introduction, Doubt: A History

When a doubt is once received, men labour rather how to keep it a doubt still, than how to solve it; and accordingly bend their wits.

FRANCIS BACON, The Advancement of Learning

Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can't believe; unbelief is won't believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.

HENRY DRUMMOND, How to Learn How

Doubt is not a thing "shot into the soul" from without like "a loaded shell shot into a fortress." It springs up in the soul itself; and the more you attempt to "fling it away" without satisfying it, the deeper and more ineradicable it grows.

A. LAYMAN, The Suppression of Doubt Is Not Faith

Doubt comes to the door in darkness, pretending to be alone and in need of your compassionate ear. But if you let him in, he'll bring his friends.

JULIA CAMERON, Walking in This World

How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!

HOMER, The Odyssey

You should never, never doubt something that no one is sure of.

ROALD DAHL, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Doubt is a profound and effective spiritual motivator. Without doubt, no truism is transcended, no new knowledge found, no expansion of the imagination possible. Doubt is unsettling to the ego, and those who are drawn to ideologies that promise the dispelling of doubt by proffering certainties will never grow. In seeking certainty they are courting the death of the soul, whose nature is forever churning possibility, forever seeking the larger, forever riding the melting edge of certainty's glacier.

JAMES HOLLIS, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

Doubt is one of the main paths on the highway to failure.


Doubt ... is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Memoirs of a Madman

Doubt is the herald of progress; the genius of reason; the pathway to truth; the advance guard in the contest with intellectual darkness.

HENRY M. TABER, Faith or Fact

Modest doubt is call'd the beacon of the wise.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Troilus and Cressida


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