Group disagreement: a belief aggregation perspective

Synthese 196 (10):4033-4058 (2019)
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Abstract

The debate on the epistemology of disagreement has so far focused almost exclusively on cases of disagreement between individual persons. Yet, many social epistemologists agree that at least certain kinds of groups are equally capable of having beliefs that are open to epistemic evaluation. If so, we should expect a comprehensive epistemology of disagreement to accommodate cases of disagreement between group agents, such as juries, governments, companies, and the like. However, this raises a number of fundamental questions concerning what it means for groups to be epistemic peers and to disagree with each other. In this paper, we explore what group peer disagreement amounts to given that we think of group belief in terms of List and Pettit’s ‘belief aggregation model’. We then discuss how the so-called ‘equal weight view’ of peer disagreement is best accommodated within this framework. The account that seems most promising to us says, roughly, that the parties to a group peer disagreement should adopt the belief that results from applying the most suitable belief aggregation function for the combined group on all members of the combined group. To motivate this view, we test it against various intuitive cases, derive some of its notable implications, and discuss how it relates to the equal weight view of individual peer disagreement.

Author Profiles

Mattias Skipper
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

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