Tag Archives: second-order disagreement

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