April 28, 2013

SEPPINNI: With Doubt, Freedom

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This is the last column of my collegiate career. I have never had much trouble choosing a topic to write about during my year as a columnist, but this week is different. I know I’m supposed to write a sappy sign-off column and give advice for how to squeeze the most out of our four years on the Hill (hint: don’t take Wines, just drink them). But I don’t need to do that. Based on your responses to my columns, I wouldn’t feel right telling you how to live it up. You’re an intelligent audience and will figure out that stuff on your own. Instead, I’d like to explain what inspired me to write a column entitled Letters from a Young Curmudgeon and why that inspiration is important.

The summer before my senior year, I spent a lot of time reading (read: procrastinating on my work). Out of the pages and words I read, there was one phrase that once seen, I could not forget: Ubi dubium ibi libertas, or, “With doubt, there is freedom.” This has been my mindset for as long as I can remember — at least since the tour guide on a preschool field trip to the zoo told us we were looking at an ostrich when, in fact, it was an emu. As I’ve aged and (hopefully) matured, this mindset has become the lens through which I view everything I encounter, from various religious claims, to so-called authorities and institutional policies. My goal with this column has been to convey this doubt in a readable and thought-provoking way.

For us seniors, the end of college is not the end of doubt. Just because I won’t be asked to attend daily lectures doesn’t mean people won’t make claims that need questioning. In fact, the further I look past Ives Hall into the real world, the more opportunity I see for skepticism. To me, skepticism is a knife best suited for cutting out prejudice, for valuing claims’ truthfulness, rather than how good they make you feel. There is pleasure to be had from learning unsettling truths. After all, what value would there be in a Cornell education if it didn’t cause us to question and overcome our most deeply held beliefs?

Skepticism shouldn’t just be confined to lofty ideals of truth, though. Scared to talk to that cute girl or guy in your class? Doubt can and must be used to question and overcome such useless fears. Take it from me, start doubting your fears instead of yourself. That is the first and last piece of “advice” I’ll give.

Cornell’s co-founder, A.D. White, had a vision of a university “where truth shall be taught for truth’s sake.” As I sign off from The Sun and from Cornell, know that I will “push skepticism as far as I logically can, and endeavor to clear my mind of illusion” and I hope you will do the same. Ubi dubium ibi libertas.

S.D. Seppinni is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at s.d.seppinni@cornellsun.com. Letters from a Young Curmudgeon appears alternate Mondays this semester.

Original Author: S.D. Seppinni

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