David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Jennifer Lackey & David Christensen (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. Oxford (forthcoming)
We begin with a subsidiary question: Is reasonable disagreement ever possible? Opposing answers to one and the same question can both be reasonable, of course, if at least one of them is based on evidence that is persuasive but misleading. This much is uncontroversial. In a more interesting case, Pro and Con share all their evidence. Can they still assess the shared evidence differently? Can one affirm what the other denies, though each proceeds reasonably enough? For each to be reasonable, each needs positive justification. Unlike ethics, epistemology repels arbitrariness. Facing a choice between bringing it about that p and bringing it about that not-p, you may have no sufficient reason to prefer either over the other, in which case you might well be free to take your pick. That’s how it is for practical choices or actions. By contrast, with no more reason for believing either a proposition or its negation in preference to the other, you are definitely not free to proceed either way. Here you must withhold, if you are to proceed reasonably at all, epistemically. If two opponents are both to be reasonable, then, each needs a balance of reason favoring his side. But is this compatible with their sharing all of their evidence? Not if any reason they may have, for or against believing, would have to be found in the evidence that they share. We are supposing they share all their evidence. Since the evidence cannot point in two opposite directions at once, Pro and Con cannot each have substantial positive reason for affirming what the other denies. Based on such reasoning, you may well conclude that reasonable disagreement with full disclosure is just impossible. But others will no doubt disagree. Suppose you all pool your evidence, and they remain unimpressed. On one view with substantial support in the literature, if you encounter opposition from an apparent peer, then, absent independent reason to downgrade him, you must lower your confidence, perhaps below the threshold of belief..
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