The Belief of Doubt

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Kruger has long used her work to comment on broad themes of gender 's "Untitled We don't need another hero ," a red stripe of text cutting through a '50s images a little boy flexing for a small girl ; commercialism 's "Untitled I shop therefore I am ," a phrase both funny and empty ; and the overall experience of being a human 's "Don't Be A Jerk," timeless advice laid over an image of an open eye glaring right at you. Her pithy wording and incongruous imagery choices let messages lodge in the mind the way advertisements do—unfolding later into the fullness of their open-ended meaning for each viewer.

It's possible to make work that's coded within discourses in the art world, but also to have people who are civilians understand it. Some of her more public works—such as 's "Untitled your body is a battleground ," designed in support of the March for Women's Lives, which subsequently became a popular T-shirt and mug design—leave little to be misunderstood even without an MFAs or gender studies degree; they work because they are blunt and visceral. Her videos, however, unavoidably contain that power inside a gallery space that is less accessible.

The scant bootleg YouTube clips of "The Globe Shrinks" can't replicate the sensory experiences the works were designed to elicit.

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But in part, Kruger moved into video out of necessity: Printing technology just hadn't caught back up with the quality she required for her text works. Her first large-scale gallery installations were silkscreened the way her earlier billboards were, at the largest industrial-screening facility in North America, serving the billboard-advertising industry.

The works were expensive, but the resolution was "gorgeous," Kruger recalls.

Belief and Doubt

The facility closed as industrial printing went digital, the results of which looked fine, from a distance at least. I stopped doing large-scale vinyl works because I couldn't stand the way it looked for a while. It took a good six years for digital to get to the level of resolution I wanted. Kruger's typographical choices have also evolved with her shift to vinyl; her early works were rendered in a version of Futura a sans-serif perhaps best-known today as IKEA's initial font , often with a red banner of type laid over a black-and-white archival photograph, while her room-wraps are a version of Helvetica another sans-serif you know as American Apparel's font , filling walls and floors with letters stretched up to 12 feet high.

It "sets better," according to Kruger, but the type-heavy layout of the Hirshhorn show a few eyes peer at you from the tiles of the gift shop floor, but there are few other images in the show has a Russian Constructivist feel and an overall aura of insistence that its message be heard. Does the size of the work correspond with some increased anxiety about our increasing disconnection from the written word?

Kruger says it has more to do with getting people to interact with a space. I see taking the space and activating it as a form of problem-solving. Museums themselves could be considered "problematic spaces" for Kruger.

Barbara Kruger: Belief+Doubt - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden | Smithsonian

In July, Kruger resigned from the Local Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's board of directors along with photographer Catherine Opie and painter Ed Ruscha in protest of recent staffing and programming changes put in place by museum director Jeffrey Deitch, who came to the post in A letter she and Opie wrote to Deitch decried what they saw as "a crisis in cultural funding" at the museum and beyond its walls.

But her work has always explored systems of power, with language that is perennially relevant. It had the phrases, 'Think like us. Love like us. Pray like us. What I hate deserves it. All of these texts are contestations, the things that have made the world go 'round for the past however many centuries. We want to hear what you think about this article.

Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. I think p may be true, then I think p may be false, then I again think p may be true, and so forth. This view suggests that we should differentiate between doubt and uncertainty. Such uncertainty may be purely negative in character. It may result from a lack of information about or interest in the subject at hand, in which case the uncertainty would not be accompanied by positive doubt. Uncertainty is the absence of certainty, so an uncertain belief may be nothing more than a probable belief which also indicates a lack of certainty But to say that I regard p as probably true is not necessarily to say that I doubt the truth of p.


Uncertainty is negative, whereas doubt is positive. Uncertainty is a mental state in which full assent is lacking, whereas doubt is a mental process in which the truth of a belief is actively called into question. Doubt therefore has an aggressive quality that pure uncertainty does not. To doubt is actively to question the truth of a proposition.

Doubt is spontaneous when it arises, unplanned and sometimes unwanted, in the normal course of our lives.

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  • For instance, Jill may doubt the fidelity of her husband, Jack, owing to the many telltale clues she has inadvertently run across. On the contrary, prior to her accidental discoveries, she had never suspected him of anything.

    Isaac Levi

    This is not the kind of doubt that characterizes philosophy. Of course, the philosopher is a human being who, like everyone else, will sometimes experience spontaneous doubt during the course of his life—but the doubt of the philosopher qua philosopher is methodic rather than spontaneous. In calling this doubt methodic , I mean that it is part of a systematic method used by the philosopher in his investigations. Methodic doubt, in other words, in purposeful rather than spontaneous, systematic rather than incidental.

    I may be fully convinced that there exists a world external to my consciousness, yet I may subject this belief to methodic doubt nonetheless. In my case, the purpose of this inquiry would not be to attain a higher degree of certainty than I already have; rather, I might question the existence of an external world in order to determine whether this is a reasonable question in the first place, and, if it is not, why it is not.

    Or, like Descartes, I might apply methodic doubt to my commonsensical beliefs in order to identify the ultimate foundation of certainty.

    Original Research ARTICLE

    In any case, the philosopher will often apply methodic doubt to beliefs that would rarely, if ever, generate spontaneous doubt. And this use of methodic doubt does not necessarily mean that the philosopher has any subjective doubts about belief that is being scrutinized. It may simply mean that the philosopher expects or hopes that something of value — a fresh insight, perhaps, or a new way of looking at an old problem—will emerge as a byproduct of his methodic doubt.

    George H. Oct 7, Belief and Doubt by George H. Smith Facebook.