Disagreement Seminar Project: Intractable disagreements
[Suggestions are welcome!]
It is well known that three philosophical problems put into question the objectivity of vast areas of discourse: the problem of vagueness, the problem of relativism and the problem of skepticism. Here I focus on the role that the notion of disagreement plays into these problem. The aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of the problems by inquiring the nature of disagreement in order to assess the menace posed by these problems to the objectivity of the relevant areas of discourse.
Phase 1: Disagreeing on perspectival matters
A similar situation to the elusive nature of borderline propositions is manifested in those areas of discourse where disagreements arise because of the apparent perspectival nature of the propositions involved. As in the vagueness case, here the problem has to be with the nature of the propositions involved. We are often faced with the the fact that in matters such as taste, aestethics and ethics people disagree and that these disagreement do not very often find a solution. Different perspectives on, say, whether sushi is tasty seem to equally justify opposite views on the issue. A noticeable difference with borderline cases here is that disputes tends to be intransigent rather than gentle: disputants tends to hold their view by rejecting the admissibility of the opposite view.
- What is the nature of intransigent disagreement on perspectival matters?
- Are perspectival propositions incompatible with a realistic semantics?
- First disagreement riddle
- Faultless disagreement seems intractable: either we opt for an realist epistemic treatment or a semantic treatment; on the former we lose grip on the notion of faultlessness and we face the danger of skepticism; on the latter we face the lost disagreement problem.
The project will assess whether relativistic treatment of these areas of discourse can make sense of the notion of the disagreement,
Intermezzo: Disagreeing in the borderline area
The first problem, the problem of vagueness, threatens the very coherence of our language and thought because of the sorites paradox and puts into question over the factuality of borderline propositions, propositions that we do entertain and assert in everyday life. The nature of a disagreement in the borderline area is unclear since it is unclear the nature of the propositions involved in the judgment. On the one hand these propositions seem to be perfectly analogous to the ones involved in the clear cases, on the other hand their truth-status is problematic as the debate on vagueness shows. Disagreement in the borderline area is possible (indeed actual), though what seem a datum of these type of disagreement is that both opinion seem, if withhold by a competent speaker, equally respectable since the exercise of the relevant concepts in the borderline area seem to allow both to accept a proposition and its negation (entitlement intuition). The kind of disagreement involved is thus a form of “gentle disagreement” - i.e. a case where two subjects hold incompatible views but where they also recognize the legitimacy of holding the opposite view.
- What it the nature of gentle disagreements in the borderline area?
- Are borderline propositions factual?
- If yes, can borderline propositions be known?
- Second Disagreement Riddle
- Is there a way to make sense of the entitlement intuition?
The project will focus on the agnostic theories of vagueness which try to reject the principle of bivalence without denying it.
Phase 2: Disagreement and skepticism
A recent formulation of the problem of skepticism calls into question the fact that philosophy is full of disputes on the very nature of reality. Philosophers who are epistemic peers hold incompatible views on the metaphysical nature of reality, on the nature human knowledge and language. The skeptical thought is then that if the best experts disagree on what is language, knowledge and reality, we cannot know anything since any putative piece of everyday knowledge involves a belief whose content is incompatible with one of the philosophical theories held by a top-level philosophical expert on the matter.
- Are the disagreement among epistemic peers in philosophy substantive or merely verbal?
- Does a disagreement between epistemic peers in philosophy really
threaten our everyday knowledge?
- Third disagreement riddle
- Can we have rational beliefs in the presence of disagreement among epistemic peers who are the best experts on the topic?
The project will analyze the extent to which these “epistemic-peer-based” skeptical argument pose a novel threat to our knowledge aspirations.
References (in progress)
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