Philosophical Diversity and Disagreement

Metaphilosophy 43 (5):567-591 (2012)
Abstract
Widespread and lasting consensus has not been philosophy's fate. Indeed, one of philosophy's most striking features is its ability to accommodate “not only different answers to philosophical questions” but also “total disagreement on what questions are philosophical” (Rorty 1995, 58). It is therefore hardly surprising that philosophers' responses to this metaphilosophical predicament have been similarly varied. This article considers two recent diagnoses of philosophical diversity: Kornblith and Rescher (respectively) claim that taking philosophical disagreement seriously does not lead to metaphilosophical scepticism. The article argues that their confidence is misplaced in so far as both wrongly assume that ordinary, first-order philosophical practice and second-order metaphilosophical reflection are separate enterprises. We can say that the universe consists of a substance, and this substance we will call “atoms,” or else we will call it “monads.” Democritus called it atoms. Leibniz called it monads. Fortunately, the two men never met, or there would have been a very dull argument. (Allen 1997, 171) When will philosophers learn to be less pretentious and arrogant in their claims? One would imagine that the philosophic experiences of twenty-five centuries would have taught them the fallacy of self-esteem! (Schilpp 1935, 233)
Keywords pluralism  modesty  disagreement  epistemic peers  metaphilosophy
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