Disagreement, Question-Begging, and Epistemic Self-Criticism by David Christensen

Disagreement, Question-Begging, and Epistemic Self-Criticism by David Christensen

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In the face of disagreement with an epistemic peer, David Christensen argues for the conciliatory response he calls Independence, in his paper Disagreement, Question-Begging, and Epistemic Self-Criticism. I will first explain Christensen’s Independence Principle about conciliation. I will then present his argument for how it avoids counterintuitive results in cases of super-high confidence and cases of disagreement over basic cognitive resources. I will argue that Christensen’s Independence Principle cannot avoid counterintuitive results without asserting a contradiction. I will specifically focus on his “cognitively altering pill case” to show that, with respect to the Independence Principle, the perception of one’s self is sometimes more reliable than the perception of one’s opponent. Yet at other times perception of one’s opponent is more reliable than perception of one’s self. If this is the case, then I will show that there is no asymmetry in special cases, and so the Independence Principle fails to avoid counterintuitive results in special disagreements.
Like Thomas Kelly, Christensen defines epistemic peers as being both equally familiar with the evidence and questions surrounding the argument, and equals with respect to epistemic virtues such as intelligence (1). Conciliatory views argue that the correct response to a disagreement with a peer is to revise one’s argument and lower confidence where necessary (1). Christensen’s argument for his conciliatory view develops with his examination of the significance of accommodating, either yourself or your opponent making a cognitive error, as rational evidence (1). He argues that the correct response to disagreement is to take a third person view of both yours and your opponen...

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... is still your peer, and that they disagree with you about everything, it seems wrong to rely on your intuition about your psychological report only because they disagree with you about many things. Indeed, it seems wrong to claim that in special cases we should suddenly accept agent-specific evidence as epistemically rational, just because if we did not we would end up in skepticism. The symmetry is not broken in the disagreement, we are unable to keep confidence in our positions, unable to regard agent-specific evidence as epistemically rational, and unable to avoid skepticism. Therefore, in super-high confidence cases, or disagreement over basic cognitive resources, Independence fails to avoid counterintuitive results.

Works Cited

(1) Christensen, David. "Disagreement, Question-Begging, and Epistemic Self-Criticism." Philosophers' Imprint 11.6 (2011): 1-18.

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