Ambiguity – Lessons from earning a Ph.D.

I have a terminal degree in my field of study.  The Doctor of Philosophy is the highest degree that exists for an academic.  Earning a Ph.D. requires dedication, patience, and persistence.  However, I learned something very crucial in my educational journey.

I learned that the more you learn the more you realize how little one actually knows.  I think that Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle were trying to point this out in their life’s work.  In fact, I believe that most Ph.D.’s would state that earning the degree has a shelf-life that must be maintained.  It is this awareness that brings perspective and ambiguity to  most topics.

As an educator I have come across many students that aggressively debate topics.  I think it is important to realize that in many circumstances it is possible for both parties to be correct.

Arthur Schopenhauer stated, “The difficulty is to try and teach the multitude that something can be true and untrue at the same time.”

Earning a Ph.D. has helped me to understand the importance of ambiguity and perspective.  In other words, my limited awareness and experience is not always the best information to make appropriate decisions with.  I must broaden my awareness before making an informed decision.  This ability was developed through research and investigation of multiple contexts and studies that had differing results.  In one circumstance a certain set of conditions were true to a particular hypothesis and on the other hand, the same conditions were not true in a different setting.

This is in large part due to individual worldviews and relative aspects that is associated with life experience.

The next time you have a reaction to a perspective ask yourself, “Is this reaction dependent on my own experience and knowledge.”  If it is the case try to broaden your awareness and understanding through listening to others.  Allow ambiguity to reside in your thought process.  Do not arrive at a quick solution due to your own experience.  Research and investigate through interactions of those that may have a different perspective.

This was an expensive lesson for me to learn but free for you.

Dr. Nathan Herzog


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