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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P013-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Doubt is often defined as a state of indecision or hesitancy with respect to accepting or rejecting a given proposition. Thus, doubt is opposed to belief. But doubt is also contrasted with certainty. Since it seems intelligible to say that there are many things we believe without being completely certain about them, it appears that we may not have a unitary concept of doubt.

Although doubt is often associated in philosophy with scepticism, historically the relation between the two is complex. Moreover, some philosophers deny that sceptical arguments have any essential connection with inducing doubts.

Sceptical doubts, as philosophers understand them, differ from ordinary doubts in their depth and generality. We all have doubts about some things. But the philosophical sceptic wonders whether we ever have the slightest reason to believe one thing rather than another. However, the reasonableness of such doubts – and even their intelligibility – remains controversial. The various attitudes philosophers adopt with respect to the status of sceptical doubts characterize the main approaches to epistemological theory.

Citing this article:
Williams, Michael. Doubt, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P013-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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