Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Disagreement is probably the most salient feature of our contemporary political environment. This project aims to examine political disagreements from the perspective of the recent discussions of the epistemology of disagreement more generally. Some, known as conciliationists, argue that when confronted with a disagreement with someone who is equally knowledgeable and well-informed as you are on the issue (known as an "epistemic peer"), one should become substantially less confident in that antecedently held belief. While some have tried to straightforwardly apply the conciliationist approach to political disagreements, I argue that such an approach makes us vulnerable to significant cognitive biases of groupthink and conformity. Instead, I argue that a more satisfactory epistemology of political disagreements has to take a more fine-grained approach to the kind of disagreement taking place: for any given political disagreement, whether (and to what extent) one should adjust one's confidence, the content, or the policy one wants probably depends on whether it is over a fact or a value, whether it is deep or narrow, reasonable or unreasonable. The impact of this more variable and particularist approach to disagreement suggests that the epistemic requirements for political liberalism are much more lenient than some conciliationists suggest; we can respond to political disagreements by adopting stances of intellectual humility, seeking overlapping reasons, and even adopting compromises, without becoming substantially more skeptical about our political judgments. We can also use this moderate approach conforms with some recent empirical results on deliberative democracy, and provides a theoretical foundation to deal with political disagreements in a more productive manner.
Carlson, Randolph Jay, "Political Justificationism: A More Realistic Epistemology of Political Disagreement" (2021). Dissertations. 3837.
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