This dissertation is about the epistemic significance of disagreement. Recently, several philosophers have offered some prima facie compelling arguments and thought experiments for a kind of skepticism based on our awareness of disagreement with others. This view implies that most or all of our opinions about disputed or controversial topics (e.g., political, religious, and philosophical issues) are epistemically unjustified, thus presenting us with a fascinating and (I think) disturbing kind of intellectual skepticism. In this dissertation, I set out to understand the theoretical basis of the skeptical position. After finding it ultimately unconvincing, I construct and defend a non-skeptical alternative.<br/> <br/> In the first three chapters, I explain the structure of the skeptical position, explain what motivates it, and then critically examine it. I place the epistemology of disagreement within the wider context of epistemic undermining in general and argue that a key tenet of the skeptical position is false. I offer a new theory of epistemic undermining that I aim to show to be both independently plausible and also able to explain and support a non-skeptical position on disagreement. Part of this involves arguing that a certain kind of circular reasoning is epistemically acceptable.<br/> <br/> Although I argue for a non-skeptical position, it is extremely plausible that disagreement can, and often does, undermine our justification to some extent. In Chapter 4, I try to explain when, and to what extent, disagreement has this undermining effect. I propose that there is a particular dimension of epistemic justification (which I call thickness) that is important for understanding the dynamics of epistemic undermining.<br/> <br/> Finally, in Chapter 5, I consider the implications of my view given the way that we actually form and hold our beliefs over time. It turns out that several popular theories in the epistemology of memory are incompatible with my view on undermining and disagreement. I argue for an alternative theory of memory justification that is both independently plausible and also fits in nicely with my position on undermining and disagreement.
"Standing Your Ground: Epistemic Justification in the Face of Disagreement"
Philosophy Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.