Tag Archives: disagreement

Leopoldo Lugones

[H]asta ahora el asunto se ha debatido entre los elogios de los adictos y las diatribas de los adversos—unos y otras sin mesura—pues para esos y éstos la verdad era una consecuencia de sus entusiasmos, no el objetivo principal.

Tan escolásticos los clericales como los jacobinos, ambos adoptaron una posición absoluta y una inflexible lógica para resolver el problema, empequeñeciendo su propio criterio al encastillarse en tan rígidos principios; pero es justo convenir en que el jacobinismo sufrió la más cabal derrota, infligida por sus propias armas, vale decir el humanitarismo y la libertad.

Producto de la misma tendencia á la cual combatía por metafísica y fanática, el instrumento escolástico falló en su poder, tanto como triunfaba en el del adversario para quien era habitual, puesto que durante siglos había constituído su órgano de relación por excelencia, cuando no su más perfecta arma defensiva.

Uno y otro descuidaron, sin embargo, el antecedente principal—la filiación de la orden discutida y de la empresa que realizó. Dando por establecido que los jesuitas son absolutamente buenos ó absolutamente malos, el estudio de su obra no era ya una investigación, sino un alegato; resultando así que para unos, las Misiones representan un dechado de perfección social y de sabiduría política, mientras equivalen para los otros al más negro despotismo y á la más dura explotación del esfuerzo humano.

No pretendo colocarme en el alabado justo medio, que los metafísicos de la historia consideran garante de imparcialidad, suponiendo á las dos exageraciones igual dosis de certeza, pues esto constituiría una nueva forma de escolástica, siendo también posición absoluta; algo más de verdad ha de haber en una ú otra, sin que pertenezca totalmente á ninguna[.]

Leopoldo Lugones, El imperio jesuítico: ensayo histórico, Buenos Aires, 1904, pp. 9–11

Robin Hanson

If you want outsiders to believe you, then you don’t get to choose their rationality standard. The question is what should rational outsiders believe, given the evidence available to them, and their limited attention. Ask yourself carefully: if most contrarians are wrong, why should they believe your cause is different?

Robin Hanson, ‘Contrarian Excuses’, Overcoming Bias, November 15, 2009

Henry Sidgwick

[T]he history of thought […] reveal[s] discrepancy between the intuitions of one age and those of a subsequent generation. But where the conflicting beliefs are not contemporaneous, it is usually not clear that the earlier thinker would have maintained his conviction if confronted by the arguments of the later. The history of thought, however, I need hardly say, affords abundant instances of similar conflict among contemporaries; and as conversions are extremely rare in philosophical controversy, I suppose the conflict in most cases affects intuitions—what is self-evident to one mind is not so to another. It is obvious that in any such conflict there must be error on one side or the other, or on both. The natural man will often decide unhesitatingly that the error is on the other side. But it is manifest that a philosophic mind cannot do this, unless it can prove independently that the conflicting intuitor has an inferior faculty of envisaging truth in general or this kind of truth; one who cannot do this must reasonably submit to a loss of confidence in any intuition of his own that thus is found to conflict with another’s.

Henry Sidgwick, ‘Further on the Criteria of Truth and Error’, in Marcus Singer (ed.), Essays on Ethics and Method, Oxford, 2000, p. 168

J. J. C. Smart

The reason why there are hardly ever completely knock-down arguments, except between very like minded philosophers, is that philosophers, unlike chemists or geologists, are licensed to question everything, including methodology.

J. J. C. Smart, ‘Ockhamist Comments on Strawson’, in Anthony Freeman (ed.), Consciousness and its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?, Exteter, 2006, pp. 158-159

Adam Elga

Suppose that for twenty-eight years in a row, Consumer Reports rates itself as the #1 consumer ratings magazine. A picky reader might complain to the editors:

You are evenhanded and rigorous when rating toasters and cars. But you obviously have an ad hoc exception to your standards for consumer magazines. You always rate yourself #1! Please apply your rigorous standards across the board in the future.

This complaint has no force. The editors should reply:

To put forward our recommendations about toasters and cars is to put them forward as good recommendations. And we can’t consistently do that while also claiming that contrary recommendations are superior. So our always rating ourselves #1 does not result from an arbitrary or ad hoc exception to our standards. We are forced to rate ourselves #1 in order to be consistent with our other ratings.

Adam Elga, ‘How to Disagree about How to Disagree’, in Richard Feldman and Ted A. Warfield (eds.), Disagreement, Oxford, 2010

Thomas Kelly

That I find it unsettling that many people I know and respect disagree with me about the epistemic significance of disagreement is perhaps unsurprising. There are, after all, psychological studies that suggest that we are highly disposed to being greatly influenced by the views of others, and I have no reason to think that I am exceptional with respect to this particular issue. It is, of course, a different question whether the fact that many others disagree with my thesis provides a good reason for me to doubt that thesis. And my answer to this question, as might be expected, is ‘No’: because I accept the general thesis that known disagreement is not a good reason for skepticism, I do not, in particular, regard the fact that people disagree with me about this general thesis as a reason for being skeptical of it. Although I tend to find it somewhat unsettling that many disagree with my view, I am inclined to regard this psychological tendency as one that I would lack if I were more rational than I in fact am. In contrast to my psychological ambivalence, my considered, reflective judgment is that the fact that many people disagree with me about the thesis that disagreement is not a good reason for skepticism is not itself a good reason to be skeptical of the thesis that disagreement is not a good reason for skepticism.

Thomas Kelly, ‘The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement’, Oxford Studies in Epistemology, vol. 1 (2006), pp. 192-193

Robin Hanson

Without some basis for believing that the process that produced your prior was substantially better at tracking truth than the process that produced other peoples’ priors, you appear to have no basis for believing that beliefs based on your prior are more accurate than beliefs based on other peoples’ priors.

Robin Hanson, ‘Uncommon Priors Require Origin Disputes’, Theory and Decision, vol. 61, no. 4 (December, 2006), p. 326

Peter van Inwagen

Philosophers do not agree about anything to speak of. And why not? How can it be that equally intelligent and well-trained philosophers can disagree about the freedom of the will or nominalism or the covering-law model of scientific explanation when each is aware of all the arguments and distinctions and other relevant considerations that the others are aware of? How can we philosophers possibly regard ourselves as justified in believing anything of philosophical significance under these conditions? How can I believe (as I do) that free will is incompatible with determinism or that unrealized possibilities are not physical objects or that human beings are not four-dimensional things extended in time as well as in space when David Lewis—a philosopher of truly formidable intelligence and insight and ability—rejects these things I believe and is aware of and understands perfectly every argument that I could bring in their defense?

Peter van Inwagen, ‘Quam dilecta’, in Thomas V. Morris (ed.), God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason, New York, 1994, pp. 40-41

Thomas Reid

We ought […] to take for granted, as first principles, things wherein we fid an universal agreement, among the learned and unlearned, in the different nations and ages of the world. A consent of ages and nations, of the learned and vulgar, ought, at least, to have great authority, unless we can show some prejudice, as universal as the consent is, which might be the cause of it. Truth is one, but error is infinite.

Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, London, 1785, essay 1, chap. 2, sect. 7