Epistemology of Disagreement, Bias, and Political Deliberation: The Problems for a Conciliatory Democracy

Topoi 40 (5):1161-1171 (2018)
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In this paper, I will discuss the relevance of epistemology of disagreement to political disagreement. The two major positions in the epistemology of disagreement literature are the steadfast and the conciliationist approaches: while the conciliationist says that disagreement with one’s epistemic equals should compel one to epistemically “split the difference” with those peers, the steadfast approach claims that one can maintain one’s antecedent position even in the face of such peer disagreement. Martin Ebeling applies a conciliationist approach to democratic deliberations, arguing that deliberative participants ought to pursue full epistemic conciliation when disagreeing with their peers on political questions. I argue that this epistemic “splitting the difference” could make participants vulnerable to certain cognitive biases. We might avoid these biases by paying more attention to the deliberative environment in which disagreement takes place.

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Jay Carlson
Loyola University, Chicago (PhD)


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