What are the chances you’re right about everything? An epistemic challenge for modern partisanship

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 19 (1):36-61 (2020)
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The American political landscape exhibits significant polarization. People’s political beliefs cluster around two main camps. However, many of the issues with respect to which these two camps disagree seem to be rationally orthogonal. This feature raises an epistemic challenge for the political partisan. If she is justified in consistently adopting the party line, it must be true that her side is reliable on the issues that are the subject of disagreements. It would then follow that the other side is anti-reliable with respect to a host of orthogonal political issues. Yet, it is difficult to find a psychologically plausible explanation for why one side would get things reliably wrong with respect to a wide range of orthogonal issues. While this project’s empirical discussion focuses on the US context, the argument generalizes to any situation where political polarization exists on a sufficiently large number of orthogonal claims.

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Hrishikesh Joshi
Bowling Green State University


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