Epistemic Peerhood and the Epistemology of Disagreement

Philosophical Studies 164 (2):561-577 (2013)
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Abstract

In disagreements about trivial matters, it often seems appropriate for disputing parties to adopt a ‘middle ground’ view about the disputed matter. But in disputes about more substantial controversies (e.g. in ethics, religion, or politics) this sort of doxastic conduct can seem viciously acquiescent. How should we distinguish between the two kinds of cases, and thereby account for our divergent intuitions about how we ought to respond to them? One possibility is to say that ceding ground in a trivial dispute is appropriate because the disputing parties are usually epistemic peers within the relevant domain, whereas in a more substantial disagreement the disputing parties rarely, if ever, qualify as epistemic peers, and so ‘sticking to one’s guns’ is usually the appropriate doxastic response. My aim in this paper is to explain why this way of drawing the desired distinction is ultimately problematic, even if it seems promising at first blush

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Robert Mark Simpson
University College London

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