Epistemic Permissivism and Reasonable Pluralism

In Michael Hannon & Jeroen De Ridder (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology. New York, NY, USA: pp. 112-122 (2021)
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There is an intuitive difference in how we think about pluralism and attitudinal diversity in epistemological contexts versus political contexts. In an epistemological context, it seems problematically arbitrary to hold a particular belief on some issue, while also thinking it perfectly reasonable to hold a totally different belief on the same issue given the same evidence. By contrast, though, it doesn’t seem problematically arbitrary to have a particular set of political commitments, while at the same time thinking it perfectly reasonable for someone in a similar position have a totally different set of political commitments. This chapter examines three explanatory theses that might be used to make sense of this difference: (1) that practical commitments are desire dependent in a way that beliefs are not; (2) that there are reasons to be resolute in practical commitments, but not in beliefs; and (3) that compromise in the face of practical political disagreement doesn’t mitigate controversy, whereas compromise in the face of disagreement about mere beliefs does mitigate controversy.

Author Profiles

Robert Mark Simpson
University College London
Rach Cosker-Rowland
University of Leeds


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