Title

Epistemic Uniqueness, Permissiveness, and Peer Disagreement

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Philosophy

Date of Defense

8-2-2013

Graduate Advisor

Eric Wiland

Committee

Berit Brogaard

Jon McGinnis

Abstract

Disagreement is very common in controversial areas such as politics, law, religion, and philosophy, but it is also very common in daily interactions. Clearly, in every disagreement it is neither the case that one should always defer to others, nor that one should always insist she is right. Instead, one should first evaluate the credence of the dissenter’ testimony. Suppose she recognizes the dissenter is her epistemic peer. In the current debate of the epistemology of peer disagreement, it is controversial whether one is rationally required to suspend one’s judgment when disputing with peers. Three different views have been proposed: (1) The Conciliatory view: we should always move at least a bit in the direction of the epistemic peer’s. (2) The Stubborn view: we should always not be moved by peer disagreement. (3) The Non-Conciliatory view: in some cases of peer disagreement we should be moved by peer disagreement, but in some cases of peer disagreement we should not be moved by peer disagreement. Two theses of the relationship between rationality and evidence are closely related to the question of how we should react to peer disagreement: (4) Uniqueness: for given evidence rationality fixes a unique fully rational doxastic attitude with respect to a given proposition. (5) Permissivism: for some evidence rationality permits a range of fully rational doxastic attitudes with respect to a given proposition. In this paper I will carefully examine the relationship between (1)-(3) and (4)-(5) and conclude that (3) is a more tenable view than (1). In section 1 I will specify (1)-(3) about how to respond to peer disagreement. In section 2, I will introduce (4)-(5) about the relationship between rationality and evidence and examine their relationship with (1)-(3). It leads to the conclusion that (2) can be dismissed. In section 3 I will argue that (5) on the relationship between evidence and rationality is more acceptable than (4). In section 4 I will compare two combinations of (1), (3) and (5) and argue that the combination of (3) and (5) is more tenable or at least equally plausible.

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