The Epistemology of Disagreement: Why Not Bayesianism?

Episteme 18 (4):587-602 (2021)
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Disagreement is a ubiquitous feature of human life, and philosophers have dutifully attended to it. One important question related to disagreement is epistemological: How does a rational person change her beliefs (if at all) in light of disagreement from others? The typical methodology for answering this question is to endorse a steadfast or conciliatory disagreement norm (and not both) on a priori grounds and selected intuitive cases. In this paper, I argue that this methodology is misguided. Instead, a thoroughgoingly Bayesian strategy is what's needed. Such a strategy provides conciliatory norms in appropriate cases and steadfast norms in appropriate cases. I argue, further, that the few extant efforts to address disagreement in the Bayesian spirit are laudable but uncompelling. A modelling, rather than a functional, approach gets us the right norms and is highly general, allowing the epistemologist to deal with (1) multiple epistemic interlocutors, (2) epistemic superiors and inferiors (i.e. not just epistemic peers), and (3) dependence between interlocutors.

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Thomas Mulligan
Georgetown University


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