Arrogance, polarisation and arguing to win

In Alessandra Tanesini & Michael P. Lynch (eds.), Polarisation, Arrogance, and Dogmatism: Philosophical Perspectives. London, UK: Routledge. pp. 158-174 (2020)
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Abstract

A number of philosophers have defended the view that seemingly intellectually arrogant behaviours are epistemically beneficial. In this chapter I take issue with most of their conclusions. I argue, for example, that we should not expect steadfastness in one's belief in the face of contrary evidence nor overconfidence in one’s own abilities to promote better evaluation of the available evidence resulting in good-quality group-judgement. These features of individual thinkers are, on the contrary, likely to lead groups to end up in stalemates and to polarise over issues. It is true that groups benefit from including members that, prior to discussion, hold diverse views. But disagreement benefits group judgement only when it is transient, rather than entrenched. That is, groups reach better quality conclusions when a number of diverse opinions are disseminated and evaluated fairly before reaching a consensus. If this is right, it would seem that individual qualities, such as open-mindedness and even-handedness about the epistemic value of opinions other than one's own, rather than steadfastness or overconfidence are conducive to better quality group judgement.

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Alessandra Tanesini
Cardiff University

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