Satellite Workshop at GAP.9

Disagreement. Epistemology and Applications

Universität Osnabrück, Room 15/131
September 18, 2015, 10:00 – 18:00

Some disagreements among people are due neither to errors in reasoning, nor to insufficient information, nor to talking past one another. The first part of this workshop is devoted to the epistemology of such disagreements, in particular to the puzzling question of whether we are rationally required to abandon views that are persistently contested by epistemic peers. The second part of the workshop extends the relevant considerations to the fields of politics and religion, where we are confronted with the special problem of deeply-rooted, but highly contested convictions that are held by large groups of people.

Registration is free, but places are limited. Please contact
Organization: Geert Keil, Christoph Schamberger, Andree Weber

10:00     Thomas Grundmann (Cologne): Peer Disagreement and Higher-Order Defeat
Currently, it his highly controversial whether and why one should suspend belief when facing peer disagreement. According to one recent suggestion (Christensen 2010), registering peer disagreement provides us with a special kind of defeater − a higher-order defeater. The evidence about disagreement seems to suggest, with a probability of .5, that one's own reasoning involves some kind of performance error. However, the dignity of higher-order defeaters has come under attack. Lasonen-Aarnio (2013), e.g., argues that higher-order evidence about disagreement is distinct from ordinary defeaters. Moreover, she doubts that the working of higher-order defeaters can be coherently explained. In my talk I will address both objections and try to defend the view that evidence about disagreement generates higher-order defeat.

11:15     Jonathan Matheson (Univ. of North Florida): The epistemology of disagreement and the ethics of belief
The Equal Weight View (EWV) claims that none of our controversial beliefs are epistemically justified. If we follow the prescriptions of EWV, the original disagreements disappear – having split the difference, the parties to the disagreement would now adopt the very same doxastic attitude toward the originally disputed proposition.  However, the idea that we should abandon controversial beliefs and eliminate the disagreements surrounding them is challenged by psychological evidence about group inquiry.  There is evidence that groups with members who genuinely disagree about a proposition, do better with respect to determining whether that proposition is true. This evidence is evidence that the elimination of disagreements is epistemically bad.  So, the prescriptions of EWV appear to be in tension with psychological findings regarding group inquiry. In this paper, I explain this challenge to EWV and evaluate its merits.

12:00     Andree Weber (Freiburg): Comment on Matheson

Lunch Break

15:00     Christoph Schamberger (Berlin): Political Disagreement
Political disagreement is so pervasive that it raises two major philosophical questions. Are there – apart from the psychological and the sociological – any systematic reasons why politicians and citizens disagree on almost every political issue? And is it epistemically rational to take part in political discussions even though there is so little chance of convincing all or a majority of people? Regarding the first question, it will be argued that political arguments comprise a peculiar mixture of philosophical premises and highly disputable empirical claims and forecasts, so making disagreement an expected element of politics. The second question can be answered by pointing to the benefits people gain from following and participating in political debates, such as improving the justification of one's political views by clarifying and prioritising various interests and beliefs.

16:15     Bryan Frances: Religious Disagreement
I will motivate what I take to be the primary epistemological questions about religious disagreement. Among other things, I will suggest that the peer problem is almost never applicable and the epistemological questions that apply in real life almost always refer to many-on-many disagreements, and not one-on-one disagreements.

  • In cooperation with Kiel University