Personal Information as Symmetry Breaker in Disagreements

Philosophy 97 (1):51-70 (2022)
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When involved in a disagreement, a common reaction is to tell oneself that, given that the information about one’s own epistemic standing is clearly superior in both amount and quality to the information about one’s opponent’s epistemic standing, one is justified in one’s confidence that one’s view is correct. In line with this natural reaction to disagreement, some contributors to the debate on its epistemic significance have claimed that one can stick to one’s guns by relying in part on information about one’s first-order evidence and the functioning of one’s cognitive capacities. In this article, I argue that such a manoeuvre to settle controversies encounters the problem that both disputants can make use of it, the problem that one may be wrong about one’s current conscious experience, and the problem that it is a live possibility that many of one’s beliefs are the product of epistemically distorting factors. I also argue that, even if we grant that personal information is reliable, when it comes to real-life rather than idealized disagreements, the extent of the unpossessed information about one’s opponent’s epistemic standing provides a reason for doubting that personal information can function as a symmetry breaker.
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