Disagreeing about disagreement

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I argue with my friends a lot. That is, I offer them reasons to believe all sorts of philosophical conclusions. Sadly, despite the quality of my arguments, and despite their apparent intelligence, they don’t always agree. They keep insisting on principles in the face of my wittier and wittier counterexamples, and they keep offering their own dull alleged counterexamples to my clever principles. What is a philosopher to do in these circumstances? (And I don’t mean get better friends.) One popular answer these days is that I should, to some extent, defer to my friends. If I look at a batch of reasons and conclude p, and my equally talented friend reaches an incompatible conclusion q, I should revise my opinion so I’m now undecided between p and q. I should, in the preferred lingo, assign equal weight to my view as to theirs. This is despite the fact that I’ve looked at their reasons for concluding q and found them wanting. If I hadn’t, I would have already concluded q. The mere fact that a friend (from now on I’ll leave off the qualifier ‘equally talented and informed’, since all my friends satisfy that) reaches a contrary opinion should be reason to move me. Such a position is defended by Richard Feldman (2006a, 2006b), David Christensen (2007) and Adam Elga (forthcoming). This equal weight view, hereafter EW, is itself a philosophical position. And while some of my friends believe it, some of my friends do not. (Nor, I should add for your benefit, do I.) This raises an odd little dilemma. If EW is correct, then the fact that my friends disagree about it means that I shouldn’t be particularly confident that it is true, since EW says that I shouldn’t be too confident about any position on which my friends disagree. But, as I’ll argue below, to consistently implement EW, I have to be maximally confident that it is true. So to accept EW, I have to inconsistently both be very confident that it is true and not very confident that it is true. This seems like a problem, and a reason to not accept EW..
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Archival date: 2017-03-06
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