A Computer Simulation of the Argument from Disagreement

Synthese 184 (3):387-405 (2012)

Authors
Johan E. Gustafsson
University of York
Martin Peterson
Texas A&M University
Abstract
In this paper we shed new light on the Argument from Disagreement by putting it to test in a computer simulation. According to this argument widespread and persistent disagreement on ethical issues indicates that our moral opinions are not influenced by any moral facts, either because no such facts exist or because they are epistemically inaccessible or inefficacious for some other reason. Our simulation shows that if our moral opinions were influenced at least a little bit by moral facts, we would quickly have reached consensus, even if our moral opinions were affected by factors such as false authorities, external political shifts, and random processes. Therefore, since no such consensus has been reached, the simulation gives us increased reason to take seriously the Argument from Disagreement. Our conclusion is however not conclusive; the simulation also indicates what assumptions one has to make in order to reject the Argument from Disagreement. The simulation algorithm we use builds on the work of Hegselmann and Krause (J Artif Soc Social Simul 5(3); 2002, J Artif Soc Social Simul 9(3), 2006).
Keywords Hegselmann–Krause  Disagreement  Simulation  Meta-ethics  Moral realism  Opinion dynamics
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DOI 10.2307/41411200
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Moral Realism: A Defence.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics.Robert Shaver - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (2):458.
How to Be a Moral Realist.Richard Boyd - 1988 - In G. Sayre-McCord (ed.), Essays on Moral Realism. Cornell University Press. pp. 181-228.

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