What is the Point of Persistent Disputes? The meta-analytic answer

Dialectica (forthcoming)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Many philosophers regard the persistence of philosophical disputes as symptomatic of overly ambitious, ill-founded intellectual projects. There are indeed strong reasons to believe that persistent disputes in philosophy (and more generally in the discourse at large) are pointless. We call this the pessimistic view of the nature of philosophical disputes. In order to respond to the pessimistic view, we articulate the supporting reasons and provide a precise formulation in terms of the idea that the best explanation of persistent disputes entails that they are pointless. We then show how to answer the pessimistic argument. Taking a well-known mathematical controversy as our paradigm example, we argue that some persistent disputes reflect substantive disagreements at the “meta-analytic” level, i.e., disagreements about the best way, among quite different candidates, to understand the topic at issue, and the best associated cluster of analytic truths one should accept concerning it. Moreover, our concrete example shows that such meta-analytic disagreements can in principle be settled and yield a genuine theoretical (as opposed to merely pragmatic) breakthrough. We conclude optimistically that persistent disputes can be an important means of fostering epistemic progress.

Author Profiles


Added to PP

670 (#26,084)

6 months
291 (#8,176)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?