Matthew Brandon Lee
Received: 11 September 2016 /Accepted: 28 September 2017 /
Published online: 11 October 2017
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017
Abstract Despite the prominence of doubt in philosophy since Descartes, the
published philosophical literature includes no extended treatment of the nature of
doubt. In this paper, I summarize the main contributions that have been made to the
subject and then develop a commonsense functionalist account of doubt by spec-
ifying (a significant part of) the functional role of doubt that something is the case.
After adding two further wrinkles, I show how the resulting account can be used to
address the questions of how doubt is related to belief and whether suspension of
judgment can be identified with (some appropriate level or levels of) doubt.
Although the account is partisan, it should hold interest for those who favor other
positions in the philosophy of mind, since (a) much of the account can be taken on
board by those in other camps, and (b) the paper demonstrates how a sufficiently
detailed account of doubt can be put to work addressing longstanding questions of
interest across philosophical sub-disciplines.
Given the prominence that doubt has enjoyed in philosophy since Descartes, one would
expect the subject of doubt to have received a good deal of philosophical attention in its
own right. But the subject has been almost completely neglected. After briefly sum-
marizing the main contributions to the subject in the published philosophical literature,
this paper will begin remedying the neglect by setting out an account of doubt. Such an
account should be of interest to epistemologists, moral philosophers, and philosophers
of religion, among others.
Philosophia (2018) 46:141–158
* Matthew Brandon Lee
Berry College, Mt Berry, Georgia, USA