Moral Peer Disagreement and the Limits of Higher-Order Evidence

In Michael Klenk (ed.), Higher-Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. Routledge (2020)
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Abstract. This paper argues that the “Argument from Moral Peer Disagreement” fails to make a case for widespread moral skepticism. The main reason for this is that the argument rests on a too strong assumption about the normative significance of peer disagreement (and higher-order evidence more generally). In order to demonstrate this, I distinguish two competing ways in which one might explain higher-order defeat. According to what I call the “Objective Defeat Explanation” it is the mere possession of higher-order evidence that explains defeat. I argue that this type of explanation is problematic and that it at best collapses into another explanation I call the “Subjective Defeat Explanation”. According to this explanation, it is coming to believe that one’s belief fails to be rational that explains defeat. Then I go on to argue that the Subjective Defeat Explanation is able to provide a straightforward explanation of higher-order defeat but that it entails that peer disagreement (and higher-order evidence more generally) only contingently gives rise to defeat, and importantly, that the condition it is contingent upon is very often not satisfied when it comes to moral peer disagreement specifically. As a result, it appears that moral knowledge is seldom threatened by moral peer disagreement.

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Marco Tiozzo
University of Gothenburg


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