Message from the Dean

The Ability to Doubt Yuji Itoh, Dean of the Graduate School of Human Relations

What does one need in order to attain maximum results in studies and research at the Graduate School of Human Relations or at a graduate level in general? The Graduate School of Human Relations offers three majors in Sociology, Psychology, and Education, each with a diverse range of research themes and approaches. Consequently, a lot depends on the focus of the study and what kind of field students endeavor to pursue. However, whatever the field, one common ability that students must have is the "ability to doubt." The importance of this is acknowledged in a variety of places. For instance, if you search for the phrase "ability to doubt" on the Internet, you will find articles by numerous authors discussing its importance not only in academic disciplines, but also in various other spheres such as business and daily life. Furthermore, they consider what we can do to develop this skill.

The fact that there are so many articles around on this topic indicates that being able to doubt or to continue doubting is difficult for many people. In both academia and everyday life, we often accept customs and common knowledge without thinking twice. Consistently doubting is especially difficult at graduate school, and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is that students must equip themselves with various skills and acquire a vast amount of knowledge, as well as disseminate their research through presentations and papers. There is simply not enough time to doubt everything. Students may falter in their studies if they get too absorbed in a particular question, and their professors or senior students may tell them to stop overthinking and get the job done quickly.

The second reason is related to the first, which is that there are both "appropriate" and "inappropriate" doubts. It is not that one should doubt everything and anything; they must be able to identify what kind of doubts lead to future discoveries and new knowledge creation. It is a waste of time to be engrossed in something that does not lead to anything in the future. What is difficult, however, is that we often only recognize which of our doubts were appropriate when we look back later on. Sometimes continuing to doubt something which many people consider meaningless can help us to find originality and make great leaps. If anything, this may be the driving force of originality and progress.

I would like students who are about to embark on their studies at the Graduate School of Human Relations to develop the ability to doubt, but this is not simply the capability of doubting. A balance with the acquisition of knowledge and skills must be maintained, while avoiding to accept everything on faith. Students must be able to identify what is appropriate without being caught up in existing systems of value judgement, and develop the ability to continue doubting, gradually getting closer to, or at times leading to new discoveries.

Directing your own doubts towards your studies or research is what truly constitutes an intellectual journey. I invite you all to come on this intellectual journey together with the faculty members and fellow students of the Graduate School of Human Relations.