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Doubt

DOUBT

The distinction between doubt as an instrument of rational thought and pathological doubt was known to philosophers (Descartes, Spinoza) long before Freud, and had long been studied as a symptom or syndrome in psychiatry. Théodule Ribot defined doubt as "a conflict between two tendencies in thought, incompatible and antagonistic, without any possible reconciliation, into a succession of positive and negative judgments about the same subject that does not culminate in a conclusion" (1925). In his study on obsessional neurosis, Freud noted that "[a]nother mental need . . . obsessional neurotics . . . is the need for uncertainty in their life, or for doubt" (1909d, p. 232).

Freud first discussed doubt in his work on dreams where he saw it as a mark of resistance and an indication to the analyst of the significance of the repressed element to which it related. But for the most part Freud considered doubt in the context of obsessional neurosis, where it applied to events that had already occurred, and could be seen above all as an expression of ambivalence, a repudiation of the instinct for mastery as sublimated into an instinct for knowledge (1913i, p. 324).

The etiology of doubt as a symptom is analyzed at length in the case history of the "Rat Man" (1909d). Freud summarized it in a letter of April 21, 1918, to Lou Andreas-Salomé: "The tendency to doubt arises not from any occasion for doubt, but is the continuation of the powerful ambivalent tendencies in the pregenital phase, which from then on become attached to every pair of opposites that present themselves" (1966/1972, p. 77).

Obsessional thought, however, to characterize it more accurately, has three somewhat different aspects: uncertainty, hesitation, and doubt. Uncertainty can be viewed as that voluntary blurring of references, which underpins the aversion for watches, for example. Doubt, for its part, is an internal perception of indecision, which just like hesitation is associated with the volitional sphere, whereas uncertainty belongs to the cognitive and doubt to the affective. These three aspects do not necessarily function simultaneously, as witness the fact that we can be certain yet unable to decide on action; at the same time, action can overcome hesitation in the absence of the slightest certainty about the reasonableness of that decision. The essence of wisdom would be to achieve certainty before abandoning hesitationthe precise attribute obsessionals find it so hard to adopt (Mijolla-Mellor, 1992).

Apropos of the Rat Man, Freud mentions the "predilection for uncertainty" of obsessional neurotics who turn their thoughts to "those subjects upon which all mankind are uncertain and upon which our knowledge and judgments must necessarily remain open to doubt" (1909d, p. 232-33). This tendency extends to easily accessible knowledge, seemingly as a form of protection against the risk of knowing. In fact the obsessive neutralizes any idea, any decision, by evoking its opposite. Thus hesitation and the predilection for uncertainty constitute the cognitive aspect of the impossibility of choosing, an attitude that serves to delay action indefinitely. The obsessive is paralyzed by ambivalence, immobilized by two instinctual impulses directed at the same object.

What is the source of this ambivalence? Since it is too general a concept to determine the "choice of neurosis," Freud offered a hypothesis based on constitutional factors: "The sadistic components of love have, from constitutional causes, been exceptionally strongly developed." And in terms of individual history, these "have consequently undergone a premature and all too thorough suppression" (1909d, p. 240).

Serge Leclaire (1971) has made significant contributions to our understanding of the nature of doubt in the obsessive individual, which he sums up rather laconically as "He doubts because he knows."

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Certainty; Intellectualization; Mahler, Gustav (meeting with Sigmund Freud); "Notes upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis" (Rat Man); Obsession; Obsessional neurosis.

Bibliography

Freud, Sigmund. (1909d). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis. SE, 10: 151-318.

. (1913i). The disposition to obsessional neurosis: a contribution to the problem of choice of neurosis. SE, 12: 311-326.

Freud, Sigmund, and Andreas-Salomé, Lou. (1972). Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé; letters. (Ernst Pfeiffer, Ed. and William and Elaine Robson-Scott, Trans.). New York: Harcourt Brace. (Original work published 1966)

Janet, Pierre. (1909). Les Névroses. Paris: Flammarion.

Leclaire, Serge. (1971). Démasquer le reel. Paris: Le Seuil, "Champ freudien."

Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de. (1992). Le Plaisir de pensée. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

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"Doubt." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Doubt." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/doubt

doubt

doubt / dout/ • n. a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction: some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this account | they had doubts that they would ever win. • v. 1. [tr.] feel uncertain about: I doubt my ability to do the job. ∎  question the truth or fact of (something): who can doubt the value of these services? | I doubt if anyone slept that night. ∎  disbelieve (a person or their word): I have no reason to doubt him. ∎  [intr.] feel uncertain, esp. about one's religious beliefs. 2. archaic fear; be afraid of: I doubt not your contradictions. PHRASES: beyond (a or a shadow of a) doubt allowing no uncertainty: you've proved it beyond doubt | they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what made them happy. in doubt open to question: the outcome is no longer in doubt. ∎  feeling uncertain about something: by the age of 14 he was in no doubt about his career aims. no doubt used to indicate the speaker's firm belief that something is true even if evidence is not given or available: those who left were attracted, no doubt, by higher pay. ∎  used to introduce a concession that is subsequently dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant: they no doubt did what they could to help her, but their best proved insufficient. without (a) doubt indisputably: he was without doubt the very worst kind of reporter.DERIVATIVES: doubt·a·ble adj. doubt·er n. doubt·ing·ly adv.

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"doubt." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Doubt

DOUBT

To question or hold questionable. Uncertainty of mind; the absence of a settled opinion or conviction; the attitude of mind toward the acceptance of or belief in a proposition, theory, or statement, in which the judgment is not at rest but inclines alternately to either side.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not beyond all possible or imaginary doubt, but such proof as precludes every reasonable hypothesis except that which it tends to support. It is proof to a moral certainty, that is, such proof as satisfies the judgment and consciences of the jury, as reasonable people and applying their reason to the evidence before them, that the crime charged has been committed by the defendant, and so satisfies them as to leave no other reasonable conclusion possible.

A reasonable doubt is such a doubt as would cause a reasonable and prudent person in the graver and more important affairs of life to pause and hesitate to act upon the truth of the matter charged. It does not mean a mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs, and depending on moral evidence, is open to some possible or imaginary doubt.

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"Doubt." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Doubt (Magazine)

Doubt (Magazine)

The journal of the Fortean Society, devoted to highlighting and discussing "Fortean data,"strange and anomalistic scientific phenomena collected by Charles Fort. It was first published as the Fortean Society Journal in September 1937. The name was changed to Doubt with the eleventh issue (Winter 1944-45). It ceased publication with issue no. 61 after the death of editor Tiffany Thayer. The Fortean community is now served by a number of succeeding publications, including the Fortean Times, Chaos: The Review of the Damned, and INFO.

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"Doubt (Magazine)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Doubt (Magazine)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/doubt-magazine

doubt

doubt †fear; be in uncertainty XIII. — OF. doter, duter (mod. douter) :- L. dubitāre waver, hesitate, rel. to dubius DUBIOUS. The latinized sp. with b appears XV.
So doubt sb. †fear; uncertainty. XIII. — OF. dote, dute (mod. doute), f. douter. Hence doubtful, doubtless XIV.

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"doubt." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"doubt." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/doubt-1

doubt

doubtabout, bout, clout, devout, doubt, down-and-out, drought, flout, gout, grout, knout, Kraut, lout, mahout, misdoubt, nowt, out, out-and-out, owt, pout, Prout, right about, rout, scout, shout, snout, spout, sprout, stout, thereabout, thereout, throughout, timeout, tout, trout, way-out, without •layout, payout •buyout • blowout • layabout •gadabout • roundabout • knockabout •walkabout • runabout • turnabout •hereabout • roustabout •handout, standout •readout • hideout • dugout • blackout •checkout •breakout, stakeout, takeout •strikeout •knockout, lockout •walkout •cookout, lookout •workout • sell-out • fallout • pull-out •umlaut • litter lout • spin-out •burnout, turnout •hangout • wipeout •copout, dropout •waterspout • beansprout • clearout •sauerkraut • washout • printout •white-out • shoot-out •cut-out, shut-out

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