A positive perspective on the unknown

Always having an opinion about everything can make you anxious and unhappy. As philosopher Sextus Empiricus said long ago, ‘Only by suspending judgment can we attain a state of ataraxia’ (roughly, ‘peace of mind’).

Like the philosopher Empiricus, author Maartje Wortel is a great proponent of doubt, particularly when it comes to factual knowledge. In her Brainwash Talk Durven twijfelen (‘Dare to Doubt’), she says that she used to think your head had to be full of facts, trivia, and figures for you to matter. Until, that is, she figured out that her great strength is actually not knowing things and doubting them instead.

‘For me, this is a much more interesting way to live because it’s limitless,’ Wortel says. ‘People want to be able to have certainty about things because they’re looking for something to hold onto, control. Doubting expands your world, makes it bigger and broader.’ She concludes her talk with a wish: ‘I hope that there’s also a lot that you don’t know for sure. When you take away all the knowledge, we’re all equal, and once you know that, you know everything.’

  • Read the full article on having new perspectives in Issue 35.