Beliefpolarizationfinal - Forthcoming in The Journal of...

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Forthcoming in The Journal of Philosophy . (A few minor revisions still to come.) Disagreement, Dogmatism, and Belief Polarization Thomas Kelly Princeton University The human mind gets creased into a way of seeing things. --Antoine Lavoisier, Reflections on Phlogiston 1. Introduction Consider the phenomenon of belief polarization . Suppose that two individuals—let’s call them ‘You’ and ‘I’--disagree about some non-straightforward matter of fact: say, about whether capital punishment tends to have a deterrent effect on the commission of murder. Although neither of us is certain of his or her view, I believe that capital punishment is a deterrent while You believe that it is not. Perhaps one or both of us has evidence for his or her view. Or perhaps we hold our views on the basis of ideological dogma, or on the basis of some admixture of dogma and evidence. In any case, regardless of why we believe as we do, You and I disagree, in a perfectly familiar way. 1 Suppose next that the two of us are subsequently exposed to a relatively substantial body of evidence that bears on the disputed question: for example, statistical studies comparing the murder rates for adjacent states with and without the death penalty. The evidence is of a mixed character: some studies seem to suggest that capital punishment is a deterrent while other studies seem to suggest that it is not. Regardless, the entire body 1 Here and throughout, I use ‘disagree’ in a weak sense, according to which you and I disagree about some issue just in case we hold opposed views about that issue. In particular, as I will use the term, it does not follow from the fact that you and I disagree that we are aware that we hold opposed views (or indeed, even that we are aware that the other exists at all). Questions about how we should respond to an awareness of disagreement are ones that I have pursued at some length elsewhere; see ‘The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement’ in Tamar Szabo Gendler and John Hawthorne (eds.) Oxford Studies in Epistemology , vol.1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005): 167-196, and ‘Peer Disagreement and the “Common Consent” Argument for the Existence of God: the Views of Similarly Situated Others as Evidence’ in Richard Feldman and Ted Warfield (eds.) Disagreement (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). But they will not be on the agenda here.
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