On behalf of controversial view agnosticism

European Journal of Philosophy 26 (4):1358-1370 (2018)
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Controversial view agnosticism is the thesis that we are rationally obligated to withhold judgment about a large portion of our beliefs in controversial subject areas, such as philosophy, religion, morality and politics. Given that one’s social identity is in no small part a function of one’s positive commitments in controversial areas, CVA has unsurprisingly been regarded as objectionably ‘spineless.’ That said, CVA seems like an unavoidable consequence of a prominent view in the epistemology of disagreement—conformism—according to which the rational response to discovering that someone you identify as an epistemic peer or expert about p disagrees with you vis-à-vis p is to withhold judgment. This paper proposes a novel way to maintain the core conciliatory insight without devolving into an agnosticism that is objectionably spineless. The approach offered takes as a starting point the observation that–for reasons that will be made clear—the contemporary debate has bypassed the issue of the reasonableness of maintaining, rather than giving up, representational states weaker than belief in controversial areas. The new position developed and defended here explores this overlooked space; what results is a kind of controversial view.

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J. Adam Carter
University of Glasgow


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