Synthese 196 (12):5009-5038 (2019)
AbstractI argue that the skeptical force of a disagreement is mitigated to the extent that it is fundamental, where a fundamental disagreement is one that is driven by differences in epistemic starting points. My argument has three steps. First, I argue that proponents of conciliatory policies have good reason to affirm a view that I call “instrumentalism,” a view that commends treating our doxastic inclinations like instrumental readouts. Second, I show that instrumentalism supplies a basis for demanding conciliatory requirements in superficial disagreements but not in fundamental disagreements. Third, I argue that the frequently invoked “independence” principle, which arguably would require significant conciliation in fundamental disputes, is unmotivated in light of the explanatory power of instrumentalism. The most plausible conciliatory view, then, is a weak conciliationism that features instrumentalism rather than independence as the central principle, and that therefore gives us a principled basis for thinking that fundamental disagreements should occasion less doxastic revision than shallow disagreements.
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