Tim Bulkeley posed an important question in response to my doubts about doubt:
“How is doubt (which you did not define) related to asking for argument and/or evidence? For I’d say that even for such an outrageously obvious statement as the one you offered it is good to ask for the arguments and evidence that support it. To ask “why?”. In such a case the answer ought to be easy, but that’s the point, until I ask I do not know.”
This question brings us to a really important distinction. Let’s go back to the “outrageously obvious statement” that I said we shouldn’t doubt:
“It is wrong to inflict suffering on others simply because doing so is pleasurable to the perpetrator.”
Let’s call this the “Wrong to inflict suffering on others for pleasure principle” (henceforth WISOFPP; pronounced wiz-awf-Puh!!). Although I don’t think we should doubt WISOFPP, that doesn’t mean we cannot think critically about it. Certainly we should do that.
Ernest Sosa makes an important distinction between what he calls “animal knowledge” and “reflective knowledge”. (I’m working on memory as to how Sosa uses these terms. I could be off a bit. But so far as I can remember this is how he draws the distinctions. If I’m wrong, then this is how I’m drawing the distinctions.) So-called animal knowledge is a result of the immediate deliverances of our senses. It doesn’t involve any critical reflection. It is just there. I would propose that WISOFPP is this type of knowledge. We intuitively know WISOFPP.
Because we know WISOFPP, and because it is among the most secure things we know, a properly functioning human being will not set out to doubt WISOFPP.
But a properly functioning human being can reflect on how s/he knows WISOFPP. That is a wholly legitimate and important enterprise. And doing it can help us reclaim WISOFPP at a deeper level, thereby adding a reflective dimension to this immediately known “animal knowledge”.
So while it is good to seek to know how we know WISOFPP it is not good to doubt that we know WISOFPP.
Of course, it is also possible that a person may find themselves doubting WISOFPP. If they do it may be because they are not functioning properly. Or it may be because they got the short end of the stick in Philosophy 101. Regardless, I would appreciate them letting me know that they doubt WISOFPP, especially if they happen to (a) move in next door, (b) offer to babysit or dog sit or (c) are candidating for the role of pastor at my church.
Tim said “until I ask I do not know.” In light of what I said you might be able to see this is partially true. Prior to critical reflection I do know in one way, but when I ask how I know I can then come to know in an additional reflective way.