"Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty."
I plan to use this film in my Existentialism course this semester, if only because that is the course in which I have found students to have the most profound and palpable experience of real doubt, of being "lost." But, upon re-viewing the film the other day, it occurs to me that this would be an excellent film with which to begin most philosophy classes. A good philosophy course ought to challenge our certainty of our own certainty, I think, and that experience is a deeply unsettling one that many students shy away from. I cannot count the times I have heard a student say that he or she didn't ask a question or speak up in class because s/he didn't want to sound "stupid"... by which they mean, I think, that they didn't want to sound like they didn't know the answer. Nevermind that, most often, they are sitting in a room with a lot of other people feeling the same uncertainty. Perhaps the best salve for this dis-ease is a quite simple one, that is, the fundamental reassurance: you are not alone. None of us are certain, really.
Acknowledging that doubt-- the very common vulnerability to uncertainty-- can itself be a tie that binds is not only a prerequisite for good philosophical discussion, but also a basis for the kind of moral and political posture that I want to encourage in my students. What do you do when you're not sure? Hopefully, the answer to that question-- tentative and unsure as it may be-- begins with a recognition that doubt is a powerful and sustaining bond. The finitude of human experience and our knowledge of that experience is a universal weakness, a universal vulnerability, even if the acknowledgment of its commonness isn't.
If you haven't seen Doubt, I highly recommend it. Here's a short clip of Father Flynn's sermon that opens the film: