Disagreement and the First‐Person Perspective

Analytic Philosophy 55 (1):31-53 (2014)
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Recently, philosophers have put forth views in the epistemology of disagreement that emphasize the epistemic relevance of the first-person perspective in disa- greement. In the first part of the paper, I attempt a rational reconstruction of these views. I construe these views as invoking the first-person perspective to explain why it is rational for parties to a disagreement to privilege their own opinions in the absence of independent explanations for doing so—to privilege without independent explanations. I reconstruct three ways privilege might be thought to arise: by demotion, through self-trust, and through the epistemic immediacy in the first-person perspective. I argue that none of these ways, and none of the views that make use of them, clarify a compelling account of the epistemic relevance of the first-person perspective. In the second part of the paper, I try to discern some lessons and outline an alternative approach. According to this approach, the epistemic relevance of the first-person perspective is not to explain privilege without independent explanations but to explain the epistemic limits of intersubjective understanding. These limits are manifest in reflective disagreement and explain how other minds matter for one’s own mind in the pursuit of knowledge. The resulting view about the epistemology of disagreement is neither skeptical nor dogmatic, but dialectical, involving an active mental state that conceptualizes not only the subject matter but also one’s own and others’ minds in thinking and rational interaction at the epistemic limits of intersubjective understanding.



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Gurpreet Rattan
University of Toronto, Mississauga

References found in this work

Epistemology of Disagreement: The Good News.David Christensen - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (2):187-217.
The Nature of Normativity.Ralph Wedgwood - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Reflection and Disagreement.Adam Elga - 2007 - Noûs 41 (3):478–502.
The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement.Thomas Kelly - 2005 - In Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Volume 1. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 167-196.

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