Deep disagreement and hinge epistemology

Synthese:1-33 (2018)
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This paper explores the application of hinge epistemology to deep disagreement. Hinge epistemology holds that there is a class of commitments—hinge commitments—which play a fundamental role in the structure of belief and rational evaluation: they are the most basic general ‘presuppositions’ of our world views which make it possible for us to evaluate certain beliefs or doubts as rational. Deep disagreements seem to crucially involve disagreements over such fundamental commitments. In this paper, I consider pessimism about deep disagreement, the thesis that such disagreements are rationally irresolvable, and ask whether the Wittgensteinian account of deep disagreement—according to which such disagreements are disagreements over hinge commitments—provides adequate support for pessimism. I argue that the answer to this question depends on what hinge commitments are and what our epistemic relation to them is supposed to be. I argue for two core claims. First, that non-epistemic theories of hinge commitments provide adequate support for pessimism. Nevertheless, such theories have highly implausible consequences in the context of deep disagreement. Secondly, at least one epistemic theory of hinge commitments, the entitlement theory, permits optimism about such disagreements. As such, while hinge epistemology is mainly pessimistic about deep disagreement, it doesn’t have to be.



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Christopher Ranalli
VU University Amsterdam

References found in this work

Ethics and the limits of philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
On Certainty (ed. Anscombe and von Wright).Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1969 - San Francisco: Harper Torchbooks. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, G. H. von Wright & Mel Bochner.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1986 - Cambridge, Mass.: Routledge.

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