Disagreement

Edited by Jonathan Matheson (University of North Florida)
About this topic
Summary Disagreement is ubiquitous. We disagree about everything from the most trivial matter to matters of the utmost importance. In the paradigm case, two people disagree when one believes a proposition, and the other disbelieves that same proposition. Other disagreements may involve suspending judgment, conflicting credences (or degrees of beliefs), and perhaps even other non-cognitive attitudes.  The phenomenon of disagreement has been used as an indication of many things. First, some take disagreement (at least of a certain sort) to indicate that there is no objective fact of the matter. For instance, if equally informed, intelligent, and open-minded individuals continue to disagree about which flavor of ice cream is the best, the best explanation of this may be that there is no fact of the matter -- that ice cream flavor preferences are simply a matter of taste. Such arguments have been used in meta-ethics to argue against kinds of moral realism. Second, some take disagreement to have significant epistemic effects. For instance, if we are committed to there being an objective fact of the matter regarding the nature of the quantum world, then the fact that one is aware of equally informed, intelligent, and open-minded individuals who disagree with them about the nature of the quantum world, might undermine the rationality (or epistemic justification) of the belief in question. Such arguments have been used in epistemology to advance skeptical conclusions. Much of the recent epistemological literature on disagreement concerns the evaluation of such arguments, and whether there can be rational grounds to 'stick to your guns' in the face of disagreement. The debate around the epistemic significance of disagreement has often focused on a particular kind of disagreement - peer disagreement. Epistemic peers are individuals who are in an equally good epistemic position on the matter at hand, they are equally likely to get it right. The central question, then is what is it rational for an individual to believe when they discover that an epistemic peer disagrees with them? Answers to this question divide into two main camps. According to conciliatory views, such a discovery comes with rational pressure to reduce your confidence in your belief. According to the most prominent conciliatory view, the equal weight view, such a discovery calls for 'splitting the difference' which in paradigm cases of disagreement calls for both parties to become skeptical. According to steadfast views, there are at least some cases where it can be rational to maintain one's view even once one has discovered a peer that disagrees.
Key works Central anthologies on the epistemology of disagreement include Feldman & Warfield 2010, and Christensen & Lackey 2013. There are also anthologies focused on particular types of disagreements. Regarding religious disagreement Benton & Kvanvig 2021, regarding moral disagreement Gowans 2000 Monographs surveying the epistemological issues of disagreement include Matheson 2015 and Frances 2014. An encyclopedia article summarizing the epistemological debates is Matheson & Frances 2018.
Introductions The following are early central works in the epistemology of disagreement:Feldman 2010; Christensen 2018; Kelly 2005; Elga 2007.
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  1. Die subtile Kunst des Ist-mir-nicht-egal (was andere denken). [REVIEW]Tim Kraft - 2020 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 68 (6):977-982.
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  2. Chaucer: A European Life. By MarionTurner. Pp. xvi, 599, Princeton/Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2019. 2 family trees, 3 maps and 19 color plates. $39.95/£30.00.Chaucer and Religious Controversies in the Medieval and Early Modern Period. By Nancy BradleyWarren. Pp. xiii, 213. Notre Dame, Indiana, University of Notre Dame Press, 2019, $45.00. [REVIEW]John C. Hirsh - 2020 - Heythrop Journal 61 (3):530-531.
  3. A modest response to empirical skepticism about intuitions.Philip Osborne - 2014 - Episteme 11 (4):443-456.
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  4. What Is Talmud? The Art of Disagreement. [REVIEW]Alan Milchman & Alan Rosenberg - 2009 - Foucault Studies:226-229.
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  5. More Equal than Others: A View from the Grassroots.John Cable - 2013 - Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal 27.
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  6. Beyond anarchy: Self-organized topology for peer-to-peer networks.S. Fabrice & R. Ghanea-Hercock - 2004 - Complexity 9 (2):49-53.
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  7. Of 'aspect'is not the same, but this disagreement apart, his remarks have been relevant and have been taken into account.Robert Hetzron - 1982 - In Ferenc Kiefer (ed.), Hungarian General Linguistics. Benjamins. pp. 4--131.
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  8. Contextualismo y Semanticismo: Debate abierto en la filosofía del lenguaje contemporánea.Camós Francesc & María J. Frápolli - 2008 - Episteme (Porto Alegre) 28 (1):1-20.
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  9. On the Acrimoniousness of Intellectual Disputes.Randall Collins - 2002 - Common Knowledge 8 (1):47-70.
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  10. Doctoral Dissertations.William Nathan Ballantyne, Why We Disagree & Why It Matters - 2013 - Review of Metaphysics 67 (1):247-272.
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  11. Les « autres » applications des technologies Peer-to-Peer.Julien Laflaquière - 2005 - Multitudes 2 (2):59-68.
    In the flow of information concerning Peer-to-Peer, it is difficult to get away from the apparently inexhaustible topic of music file sharing. This article invites us to refocus our attention towards the vast diversity of possible uses of the P2P technologies. After a survey of a few examples, the article denounces the ongoing confusion between an innovative and promising technology and the uses to which it can be subjected.
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  12. Des vertus culturelles du piratage à l'ère numérique : ou comment le peer-to-peer peut contribuer à la circulation du patrimoine québécois et à la diversité culturelle.Martin Tétu - 2012 - Éthique Publique. Revue Internationale D’Éthique Sociétale Et Gouvernementale (vol. 14, n° 2).
    Ce texte traite de piratage en ligne à travers la pratique du peer-to-peer au Québec, c’est-à-dire une forme d’échange non autorisé de produits culturels sur Internet (pratique appelée « piratage culturel »). Une approche strictement juridique de la pratique y voit un simple détournement de copyright, tandis que d’autres approches (mouvement Copyleft, Parti pirate, etc.) postulent qu’un gain social est généré par une telle circulation de l’information à grande échelle. Peu de recherches empiriques ont documenté toutefois les contenus circulant réellement (...)
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  13. Too Soon to Say.Edward James - 2012 - Philosophy 87 (3):421-442.
    (1) Rupert Read charges that Rawls culpably overlooks the politicized Euthyphro: Do we accept our political perspective because it is right or is it right because we accept it? (2) This charge brings up the question of the deficiency dilemma: Do others disagree with us because of our failures or theirs? —where the two dilemmas appear to be independent of each other and lead to the questions of the logic of deficiency, moral epistemic deficiency, epistemic peers, and the hardness of (...)
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  14. Peer Gynt. [REVIEW]V. C. C. - 1956 - Review of Metaphysics 9 (3):519-519.
    Ibsen's epic drama rendered, not altogether successfully, into English verse. The idiom is sometimes unnatural and the verse tends to be rigid and sing-song.--V. C. C.
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Deep Disagreement
  1. How Can Constitutivism Account for the Persistence of Deep Disagreements?Enrico Galli - forthcoming - Social Epistemology.
    Exploring the metaphysics of deep disagreements, Ranalli identifies several essential features shared by all such disputes. These very features constitute a set of adequacy conditions that any satisfactory theory of deep disagreements must meet. The paper explains how Coliva’s Wittgensteinian hinge theory can satisfy Ranalli’s persistence desideratum. According to this condition, any appropriate theory must explain why deep disagreements tend to be persistent and thus unresolved without presupposing that they are rationally irresolvable. First, the work critically discusses how Coliva utilizes (...)
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  2. Hidden Depths: Testimonial Injustice, Deep Disagreement, and Democratic Deliberation.Aidan McGlynn - 2023 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 31 (3):361-381.
    .Deep disagreements are those involving a disagreement about (relatively) fundamental epistemic principles. This paper considers the bearing of testimonial injustice, in Miranda Fricker’s sense, on the depth of disagreements, and what this can teach us about the nature and significance of deep disagreements. I start by re-evaluating T. J. Lagewaard’s recent argument that disagreements about the nature, scope, and impact of oppression will often be deepened by testimonial injustice, since the people best placed to offer relevant testimony will be subject (...)
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  3. Taste Fragmentalism.Giuseppe Spolaore, Samuele Iaquinto & Giuliano Torrengo - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-19.
    This paper explores taste fragmentalism, a novel approach to matters of taste and faultless disagreement. The view is inspired by Kit Fine’s fragmentalism about time, according to which the temporal dimension can be constituted—in an absolute manner—by states that are pairwise incompatible, provided that they do not obtain together. In the present paper, we will apply this metaphysical framework to taste states. In our proposal, two incompatible taste states (such as the state of rhubarb’s being tasty and the state of (...)
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  4. Recalcitrant Disagreement in Mathematics: An “Endless and Depressing Controversy” in the History of Italian Algebraic Geometry.Silvia De Toffoli & Claudio Fontanari - 2023 - Global Philosophy 33 (38):1-29.
    If there is an area of discourse in which disagreement is virtually absent, it is mathematics. After all, mathematicians justify their claims with deductive proofs: arguments that entail their conclusions. But is mathematics really exceptional in this respect? Looking at the history and practice of mathematics, we soon realize that it is not. First, deductive arguments must start somewhere. How should we choose the starting points (i.e., the axioms)? Second, mathematicians, like the rest of us, are fallible. Their ability to (...)
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  5. Deep Disagreement (Part 2): Epistemology of Deep Disagreement.Chris Ranalli & Thirza Lagewaard - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (12):e12887.
    What is the epistemological significance of deep disagreement? Part I explored the nature of deep disagreement, while Part II considers its epistemological significance. It focuses on two core problems: the incommensurability and the rational resolvability problems. We critically survey key responses to these challenges, before raising worries for a variety of responses to them, including skeptical, relativist, and absolutist responses to the incommensurability problem, and to certain steadfast and conciliatory responses to the rational resolvability problem. We then pivot to the (...)
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  6. Political Hinge Epistemology.Christopher Ranalli - 2022 - In Constantine Sandis & Danièle Moyal-Sharrock (eds.), Extending Hinge Epistemology. Anthem Press. pp. 127-148.
    Political epistemology is the intersection of political philosophy and epistemology. This paper develops a political 'hinge' epistemology. Political hinge epistemology draws on the idea that all belief systems have fundamental presuppositions which play a role in the determination of reasons for belief and other attitudes. It uses this core idea to understand and tackle political epistemological challenges, like political disagreement, polarization, political testimony, political belief, ideology, and biases, among other possibilities. I respond to two challenges facing the development of a (...)
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  7. Lyotard, 'The Differend', and the Philosophy of Deep Disagreement.James Cartlidge - 2022 - Synthese 200 (359):1-19.
    This paper examines the philosophy of Jean-Francois Lyotard in relation to the analytic philosophy of deep disagreement. It argues not just that his work has relevance for this debate, but that it offers a challenge to the ‘epistemic paradigm’ present in its academic literature, represented by the two most prominent sets of theories within it – the ‘fundamental epistemic principle’ and ‘hinge epistemology’ views, arguably most strongly represented by Michael Lynch and Duncan Pritchard, respectively. Focussing on Lyotard’s text ‘The Differend’, (...)
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  8. Worldview disagreement and subjective epistemic obligations.Daryl Ooi - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2):1-23.
    In this paper, I provide an account of subjective epistemic obligations. In instances of peer disagreement, one possesses at least two types of obligations: objective epistemic obligations and subjective epistemic obligations. While objective epistemic obligations, such as conciliationism and remaining steadfast, have been much discussed in the literature, subjective epistemic obligations have received little attention. I develop an account of subjective epistemic obligations in the context of worldview disagreements. In recent literature, the notion of worldview disagreement has been receiving increasing (...)
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  9. Viewpoint Convergence as a Philosophical Defect.Grace Helton - forthcoming - In Sanford C. Goldberg & Mark Walker (eds.), Attitude in Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    What can we know? How should we live? What is there? Philosophers famously diverge in the answers they give to these and other philosophical questions. It is widely presumed that a lack of convergence on these questions suggests that philosophy is not progressing at all, is not progressing fast enough, or is not progressing as fast as other disciplines, such as the natural sciences. Call the view that ideal philosophical progress is marked by at least some degree of convergence on (...)
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  10. Introduction: Disagreement—Epistemological and Argumentation-Theoretic Perspectives.Patrick Bondy & David Godden - 2021 - Topoi 40 (5):963-969.
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  11. The Compliment of Rational Opposition: Disagreement, Adversariality, and Disputation.David Godden - 2021 - Topoi 40 (5):845-858.
    Disputational models of argumentation have been criticized as introducing adversariality into argumentation by mistakenly conceiving of it as minimally adversarial, and, in doing so, structurally incentivizing ancillary adversariality. As an alternative, non-adversarial models of argumentation like inquiry have been recommended. In this article I defend disputational, minimally adversarial models of disagreement-based argumentation. First, I argue that the normative kernel of minimal adversariality is properly located in the normative fabric of disagreement, not our practices of disputation. Thus, argumentation’s minimal adversariality is (...)
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  12. The fundamental model of deep disagreements.Victoria Lavorerio - 2021 - Metaphilosophy 52 (3-4):416-431.
    We call systematic disputes that are particularly hard to resolve deep disagreements. We can divide most theories of deep disagreements in analytic epistemology into two camps: the Wittgensteinian view and the fundamental epistemic principles view. This essay analyzes how both views deal with two of the most pressing issues a theory of deep disagreement must address: their source and their resolution. After concluding that the paradigmatic theory of each camp struggles on both fronts, the essay proceeds to show that, despite (...)
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  13. Disagreement unhinged, constitutivism style.Annalisa Coliva & Michele Palmira - 2021 - Metaphilosophy 52 (3-4):402-415.
    Hinge epistemology has to dispel the worry that disagreeing over hinges is rationally inert. Building on a companion piece (Coliva and Palmira 2020), this paper offers a constitutivist solution to the problem of rational inertia by maintaining that a Humean sceptic and a hinge epistemologist disagree over the correct explication of the concept of epistemic rationality. The paper explores the implications of such a solution. First, it clarifies in what sense a disagreement over hinges would be a conceptual disagreement. Secondly, (...)
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  14. The Epistemic Value of Civil Disagreement in advance.Christopher W. Love - 2021 - Social Theory and Practice 47 (4):629-656.
    In this article, I argue that the practice of civil disagreement has robust epistemic benefits and that these benefits enable meaningful forms of reconciliation—across worldview lines and amid the challenging information environment of our age. I then engage two broad groups of objections: either that civil disagreement opposes, rather than promotes, clarity, or else that it does little to help it. If successful, my account gives us reason to include civil disagreement among what Mill calls “the real morality of public (...)
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  15. (Mis)Understanding scientific disagreement: Success versus pursuit-worthiness in theory choice.Eli I. Lichtenstein - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 85:166-175.
    Scientists often diverge widely when choosing between research programs. This can seem to be rooted in disagreements about which of several theories, competing to address shared questions or phenomena, is currently the most epistemically or explanatorily valuable—i.e. most successful. But many such cases are actually more directly rooted in differing judgments of pursuit-worthiness, concerning which theory will be best down the line, or which addresses the most significant data or questions. Using case studies from 16th-century astronomy and 20th-century geology and (...)
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  16. Social Choice or Collective Decision-making: What Is Politics All About?Thomas Mulligan - 2020 - In Volker Kaul & Ingrid Salvatore (eds.), What Is Pluralism? Abingdon, UK: pp. 48-61.
    Sometimes citizens disagree about political matters, but a decision must be made. We have two theoretical frameworks for resolving political disagreement. The first is the framework of social choice. In it, our goal is to treat parties to the dispute fairly, and there is no sense in which some are right and the others wrong. The second framework is that of collective decision-making. Here, we do believe that preferences are truth apt, and our moral consideration is owed not to those (...)
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  17. Commentary on “The Normative Significance of Deep Disagreement”.Chris Campolo - unknown
  18. Rethinking Disagreement: Philosophical Incommensurability and Meta-Philosophy.Richard J. Colledge - 2014 - Symposium 18 (2):33-53.
    Set in the context of the current interest among Analytic philosophers in the “epistemology of disagreement,” this paper explores the meta-philosophical problem of philosophical incommensurability. Motivated by Nietzsche’s provocative remark about philosophy as prejudices and desires of the heart “sifted and made abstract,” the paper first outlines the contours of the problem and then traces it through a series of examples. Drawing largely on the tradition of phenomenology and philosophical hermeneutics, a broadly Continental response to this formidable problem is suggested. (...)
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  19. Metaphysics, prescription and methodological disagreement: A comment on Mathias Frisch’s Causal reasoning in physics.Alexander Reutlinger - 2015 - Metascience 24 (3):351-372.
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  20. Does intractable social disagreement stop argument in its tracks?John Woods - unknown
    It has been widely recognized since ancient times that a standard way to resolve disagreement is for one party to extract concessions from the other which he or she is less prepared to give up than his original thesis. Central to this methodology is specifying the various forms of consequence which bear on matters already conceded. Not all disagreements are responsive to this methodology. I shall speak of a class of disagreements as intractable when parties are unwilling to “split the (...)
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  21. Disagreement about 'universals' or universal disagreement?Christina Behme - 2010 - Gnosis 11 (2):1-10.
    It has been widely assumed that all languages share some structural features; language universals. Evans and Levinson challenge this assumption and provide a wealth of empirical evidence supporting their claim that linguistic diversity is the most remarkable characteristic of human languages. The response to their paper reveals fundamental disagreements, indicating that different authors rely on substantially different definitions of key terms such as ‘language’ and ‘language universal’. In this paper I will not take sides but discuss the implications of these (...)
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  22. What Is a Fundamental Ethical Disagreement?Wayne Wasserman - 1985 - Analysis 45 (1):34 - 39.
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Peer Disagreement
  1. Gaslighting and Peer Disagreement.Scott Hill - 2024 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 26 (3).
    I present a counterexample to Kirk-Giannini’s Dilemmatic Theory of gaslighting.
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  2. A Polarization-Containing Ethics of Campaign Advertising.Attila Mráz - 2023 - Analyse & Kritik 45 (1):111-135.
    (OPEN ACCESS) This paper establishes moral duties for intermediaries of political advertising in election campaigns. First, I argue for a collective duty to maintain the democratic quality of elections which entails a duty to contain some forms of political polarization. Second, I show that the focus of campaign ethics on candidates, parties and voters—ignoring the mediators of campaigns—yields mistaken conclusions about how the burdens of the latter collective duty should be distributed. Third, I show why it is fair to require (...)
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  3. Beweis der Gleichgewichtungsthese aus der Wahrscheinlichkeitskonzeption epistemischer Ebenbürtigkeit.Moritz Cordes - 2023 - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 77 (1):5-16.
    In his book Meinungsverschiedenheiten (engl.: Disagreement) Marc Andree Weber defends a probability based conception of epistemic peerhood. Starting from this conception he proves the equal weight thesis, which prescribes that one should allocate the same weight to the beliefs of epistemic peers as to one's own beliefs. – In the present article I provide a much shorter proof. For that purpose I first formalize Weber's definition and thesis and I close the argumentative gap between the two of them by making (...)
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  4. David Christensen and Jennifer Lackey, eds. , The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays . Reviewed by.Dustin Olson - 2015 - Philosophy in Review 35 (1):4-6.
  5. Dealing with Disagreement: Uniqueness and Conciliation.Jonathan D. Matheson - 2010 - Dissertation, Proquest
  6. Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the power of Disruptive Technologies.I. Alon - 2001 - Knowledge, Technology & Policy 13 (4):138-139.
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  7. Disagreement and the Burdens of Judgment.Thomas Kelly - 2013 - In David Phiroze Christensen & Jennifer Lackey (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. Oxford University Press.
  8. Moral Virtue and the Epistemology of Disagreement.Christopher W. Gowans - 2010 - Philosophical Topics 38 (2):39-57.
    The paper is a defense of the thesis that there are situations in which morally virtuous persons who are epistemic peers may disagree about what to do without either person being rationally required to change his or her judgment (a version of the Steadfast position in the epistemology of disagreement debate). The argument is based in part on similarities between decisions of virtuous agents and other practical decisions such as a baseball manager’s decision to change pitchers during a game. In (...)
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  9. Epistemic Value and Epistemic Compromise, A Reply to Moss.Amir Konigsberg - 2013 - Episteme 10 (1):87-97.
    In this paper I present a criticism of Sarah Moss‘ recent proposal to use scoring rules as a means of reaching epistemic compromise in disagreements between epistemic peers that have encountered conflict. The problem I have with Moss‘ proposal is twofold. Firstly, it appears to involve a double counting of epistemic value. Secondly, it isn‘t clear whether the notion of epistemic value that Moss appeals to actually involves the type of value that would be acceptable and unproblematic to regard as (...)
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  10. New Essays on Disagreement.Jennifer Lackey (ed.) - 2012 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Political DIsagreement
  1. Engaging with “Fringe” Beliefs: Why, When, and How.Miriam Schleifer McCormick - forthcoming - Episteme:1-16.
    I argue that in many cases, there are good reasons to engage with people who hold fringe beliefs such as debunked conspiracy theories. I (1) discuss reasons for engaging with fringe beliefs; (2) discuss the conditions that need to be met for engagement to be worthwhile; (3) consider the question of how to engage with such beliefs, and defend what Jeremy Fantl has called “closed-minded engagement” and (4) address worries that such closed-minded engagement involves problematic deception or manipulation. Thinking about (...)
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  2. Hidden Depths: Testimonial Injustice, Deep Disagreement, and Democratic Deliberation.Aidan McGlynn - 2023 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 31 (3):361-381.
    .Deep disagreements are those involving a disagreement about (relatively) fundamental epistemic principles. This paper considers the bearing of testimonial injustice, in Miranda Fricker’s sense, on the depth of disagreements, and what this can teach us about the nature and significance of deep disagreements. I start by re-evaluating T. J. Lagewaard’s recent argument that disagreements about the nature, scope, and impact of oppression will often be deepened by testimonial injustice, since the people best placed to offer relevant testimony will be subject (...)
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  3. On masks and masking: epistemic harms and science communication.Kristen Intemann & Inmaculada de Melo-Martín - 2023 - Synthese 202 (3):1-17.
    During emerging public health crises, both policymakers and members of the public are looking to scientific experts to provide guidance. Even in cases where there are significant uncertainties, there is pressure for experts to “speak with one voice” to avoid confusion, allow officials to make evidence-based decisions rapidly, and encourage public support for such decisions. This can lead experts to engage in masking of information about the state of the science or regarding assumptions involved in policy recommendations. Although experts might (...)
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  4. A Polarization-Containing Ethics of Campaign Advertising.Attila Mráz - 2023 - Analyse & Kritik 45 (1):111-135.
    (OPEN ACCESS) This paper establishes moral duties for intermediaries of political advertising in election campaigns. First, I argue for a collective duty to maintain the democratic quality of elections which entails a duty to contain some forms of political polarization. Second, I show that the focus of campaign ethics on candidates, parties and voters—ignoring the mediators of campaigns—yields mistaken conclusions about how the burdens of the latter collective duty should be distributed. Third, I show why it is fair to require (...)
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