The Problem with Disagreement on Social Media: Moral not Epistemic

In Elizabeth Edenberg & Michael Hannon (eds.), Political Epistemology. Oxford, UK: (2021)
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Intractable political disagreements threaten to fracture the common ground upon which we can build a political community. The deepening divisions in society are partly fueled by the ways social media has shaped political engagement. Social media allows us to sort ourselves into increasingly likeminded groups, consume information from different sources, and end up in polarized and insular echo chambers. To solve this, many argue for various ways of cultivating more responsible epistemic agency. This chapter argues that this epistemic lens does not reveal the complete picture and therefore misses a form of moral respect required to reestablish cooperation across disagreements in a divided society. The breakdown of discourse online provides renewed reasons to draw out not an epistemic but a moral basis for political cooperation among diverse citizens—one inspired by Rawlsian political liberalism. We need ways to cultivate mutual respect for our fellow citizens in order to reestablish common moral ground for political debate.



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