Deliberation and Group Disagreement

In Fernando Broncano-Berrocal & J. Adam Carter (eds.), The Epistemology of Group Disagreement. London: Routledge (2020)
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Abstract
Suppose an inquiring group wants to let a certain view stand as the group's view. But there’s a problem: the individuals in that group do not initially all agree with one another about what the correct view is. What should the group do, given that it wants to settle on a single answer, in the face of this kind of intragroup disagreement? Should the group members deliberate and exchange evidence and then take a vote? Or, given the well-known ways that evidence exchange can go wrong, e.g., by exacerbating pre-existing biases, compromising the independence of individual judgments, etc., should the group simply take a vote without deliberating at all? While this question has multiple dimensions to it—including ethical and political dimensions—we approach the question through an epistemological lens. In particular, we investigate to what extent it is epistemically advantageous and disadvantageous that groups whose members disagree over some issue use deliberation in comparison to voting as a way to reach collective agreements. Extant approaches in the literature to this ‘deliberation versus voting’ comparison typically assume there is some univocal answer as to which group strategy is best, epistemically. We think this assumption is mistaken. We approach the deliberation versus voting question from a pluralist perspective, in that we hold that a group’s collective endeavor to solve an internal dispute can be aimed at different, albeit not necessarily incompatible, epistemic goals, namely the goals of truth, evidence, understanding, and epistemic justice. Different answers to our guiding question, we show, correspond with different epistemic goals. We conclude by exploring several ways to mitigate the potential epistemic disadvantages of solving intragroup disagreement by means of deliberation in relation to each epistemic goal.
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Archival date: 2020-07-01
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