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SCEPTICISM ABOUT PHILOSOPHY Jason Brennan Abstract Suppose a person who is agnostic about most phi osophica issues

wishes to ha!e true phi osophica be ie"s but e#ua $ wishes to a!oi% "a se phi osophica be ie"s& I argue that this truth'see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic wou % not ha!e goo% groun%s "or pursuing phi osoph$& *i%esprea% %isagreement shows that pursuing phi osoph$ is not a re iab e metho% o" %isco!ering true answers to phi osophica #uestions& More i(e $ than not) pursuing phi osoph$ ea%s to "a se be ie"& Man$ attempts to rebut this sceptica argument "ai & 1. Insider and Outsider Scepticism about Philosophy Phi osophers %isagree immense $ in signi"icant wa$s& Our best phi osophers %isagree o!er the %octrines) metho%s) an% e!en the aims o" phi osoph$& E+perts in a "ie %s %isagree) but %isagreement is more per!asi!e in phi osoph$ than in most other "ie %s& As Thomas ,e $ sa$s) -Phi osoph$ is notab e "or the e+tent to which %isagreements with respect to e!en those most basic #uestions persist among its most ab e practitioners) %espite the "act that the arguments thought re e!ant to the %ispute% #uestions are t$pica $ we '(nown to a parties to the %ispute&./ A sceptic might c aim that ra%ica %issensus shows that pursuing phi osoph$ is not a goo% means "or %isco!ering true answers "or phi osophica #uestions& 0issensus shows that phi osophica metho%s are unre iab e instruments o" truth& Suppose an uncommitte% person comes to phi osoph$ hoping to get true answers to her phi osophica #uestions& She wants to (now what that nature o" causation is) what 1usti"ication is) what rightness consists in) what 1ustice is) an% so on& She notices that phi osophers ha!e e+tensi!e %isagreement about the answers to these #uestions an% thus conc u%es that the probabi it$ o" her getting the true answer b$ pursuing phi osoph$ is ow& So) she becomes a sceptic
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Thomas ,e $) -The Epistemic Signi"icance o" 0isagreement.) in 2ohn Hawthorne an% Tamar 3en% er)

e%s&) Oxford Studies in Epistemology 4O+"or%5 O+"or% Uni!ersit$ Press) 67789) p& /:;&

about the "ie % o" phi osoph$ an% wa (s awa$ with her #uestions unanswere%& Is she ma(ing a mista(e< In this paper) I consi%er scepticism o" the sort that ho %s that there are true answers to phi osophica #uestions) but none o" us are in a goo% position to (now these answers& This t$pe o" scepticism a%mits o" two sub't$pes& /9 An insider sceptic ho %s that e!en the best phi osophers ac( goo% reasons to ho % their !iews& So) the insi%er sceptic thin(s that phi osophers who are not agnostic about phi osophica issues shou % become agnostic& 69 A person who is mere $ an outsider sceptic) on the other han%) might accept that man$ phi osophers are 1usti"ie% in ho %ing their !iews) %espite wi%esprea% %isagreement& The outsi%er sceptic nee% not ho % that phi osophers shou % change their be ie"s or become agnostic& Howe!er) the outsi%er sceptic a so ho %s that peop e not a rea%$ committe% to one phi osophica position or another shou % sta$ uncommitte%& So) the outsi%er sceptic ho %s that e!en i" most phi osophers are 1usti"ie% in accepting their %i""erent !iews) a person who ac(s phi osophica be ie"s ought to re"rain "rom using phi osophica metho%o og$ an% instea% shou % remain agnostic& Suppose an uncommitte% person) one who is current $ agnostic about basic phi osophica #uestions) wishes to %isco!er the true answers to these phi osophica #uestions& She is a so e#ua $ concerne% to a!oi% "a se answers& She is thus wi ing to stop being agnostic an% come to be ie!e a %octrine pro!i%e% she %oes so !ia a re iab e metho%& =or her) a re iab e metho% is one that is at east more i(e $ than not to gi!e her true be ie"s& I" these are her goa s) it is %i""icu t to show that phi osoph$ as we %o it wou % be worth %oing& She might as we remain agnostic& This is not to sa$ that we phi osophers must gi!e up our %octrines an% become agnostics ourse !es) but mere $ that a truth'see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic %oes not ha!e goo% reason to pursue phi osoph$ in the attempt to %isco!er the truth about phi osophica #uestions& This paper argues that the presence o" wi%esprea% %issensus ma(es it %i""icu t to %e"en% phi osoph$ "rom outsi%er scepticism) i" not insi%er scepticism& There are man$ reasons wh$ phi osoph$ is worth %oing& Yet) it wou % be %isturbing i" we cannot show the agnostic that phi osoph$ gets her the right t$pe o" !a ue >true answers to phi osophica #uestions&

2. The Argument against Philosophy 0issensus can be use% in an argument against phi osoph$5 The Argument against Philosophy& The goa o" phi osoph$ is to unco!er certain truths& ?a%ica %issensus shows that phi osophica metho%s are imprecise an% inaccurate& Phi osoph$ continua $ ea%s e+perts with the highest %egree o" epistemic !irtue) %oing the !er$ best the$ can) to accept a wi%e arra$ o" incompatib e %octrines& There"ore) phi osoph$ is an unreliable instrument "or "in%ing truth& A person who enters the "ie % is high $ un i(e $ to arri!e at true answers to phi osophica #uestions& This is a rough s(etch o" the argument& I wi re"ine it as necessar$ as the paper procee%s& @ote that Argument against Phi osoph$ nee% not c aim that no phi osopher has "oun% the truth& It is possib e that ,ant got e!er$thing right& Yet) phi osoph$ a so has arri!e% at hun%re%s o" other incompatib e %octrines& I" phi osoph$ ea%s to the truth) it is on $ because it ea%s a most e!er$where& A person concerne% on $ to get the truth wou % at the !er$ east tr$ to be ie!e some ran%om $ chosen %octrine rather than be agnostic) since there is at east some possibi it$ that a ran%om %octrine happens to be correct& She might e!en pursue phi osophica metho%s i" the$ increase the probabi it$ o" being correct) as it is possib e the$ %o& Perhaps phi osophers are twice as i(e $ to ha!e true answers to phi osophica #uestions than non'phi osophers are& Howe!er) i" this same person is e#ua $ concerne% to a!oi% "a se be ie"s about phi osophica issues) then she wou % want to pursue phi osoph$ on $ i" it ga!e her a greater than A7B chance o" getting a true be ie"& 3i!en the %egree o" %issensus in most "ie %s o" phi osoph$) it seems un i(e $ that phi osoph$ o""ers her this great a chance& Here is an ana og$& Suppose) thousan%s o" peop e) each o" whom wants to go to SCo Pau o) ran%om $ boar% a " ights %eparting 0a as'=ort *orth& Suppose the$ "i a %eparting seats) but are not to % where the$ are going& O" these thousan%s) a "ew hun%re% in "act wi an% in SCo Pau o& Most wi arri!e somewhere e se& Phi osoph$ seems i(e this in man$ respects& It ma$ bring some peop e to the proper %estination) but it %umps most somewhere e se& Actua $) matters are worse than that& Tra!e ers wi (now whether the$ ha!e arri!e% in SCo Pau o& In phi osoph$Ds case) some ma$ in%ee% arri!e at

truth& Howe!er) the$ wi not ha!e %iscernib $ better groun%s "or be ie!ing this than their mista(en peers& The$ ma$ be ie!e themse !es to ha!e better groun%s) an% their peers be ie!e this about themse !es as we & Howe!er) "rom the outsi%er.s perspecti!e) the$ oo( the same& The$ are smart peop e %oing the best the$ can) an% the$ %isagree& The outsi%er has itt e reason to thin( one phi osopher is c oser to the truth than the ne+t) an% itt e reason to thin( that i" she became a phi osopher) she wou % %o an$ better& Here is another wa$ o" ma(ing the unre iabi it$ argument& Suppose that there are /7 competing %octrines in the "ie % o" phi osoph$ o" min%) each o" which is accepte% b$ /7 percent o" the members o" the American Phi osophica Association& Suppose) optimistica $) that on the nature o" consciousness /7 percent o" the members o" the APA ha!e the right theor$& Suppose a so that we can regar% a members o" the APA as epistemic peers) where two peop e are epistemic peers 1ust in case the$ are e#ua s with respect to their %egree o" epistemic !irtue 4thought"u ness) "ree%om "rom bias) etc&9 an% their access to e!i%ence&6 An uncommitte% person) oo(ing at the "ie % "rom the outsi%e) wou % worr$ that i" she pursues phi osoph$) she wi ha!e something i(e a / in /7 chance o" getting the right answer to the #uestions o" the phi osoph$ o" min%& She sees that phi osophica metho%o og$>stu%$ing arguments) ma(ing new arguments) creating new %istinctions) rea%ing te+ts) %ebating) etc&>genera $ ea%s peop e to accept some theor$ or other o" the nature o" consciousness& 4Let us assume that e!er$one who stu%ies the phi osoph$ o" min% en%s up accepting / o" the /7 theories&9 So) she (nows that phi osophica metho%o og$ wi resu t in her accepting some theor$) but "rom her stan%point) it is more i(e $ than not that it wi be the "a se theor$& The greater the %egree o" %isagreement among epistemic peers) the ower the probabi it$ that phi osophiEing wi get her to the truth& This argument assumes than an agnostic outsi%er who en%s up pursuing phi osophica metho%s wi ha!e either a ran%om or proportiona chance o" accepting an$ theor$& I&e&) I am wor(ing on the assumption that she wi either accept a theor$ at ran%om or with a probabi it$ proportiona to the percentage o" her epistemic peers that accept an$ gi!en theor$& ?ea peop e probab $ %o not ha!e a ran%om chance %ue to their bac(groun% starting be ie"s& A person who comes to phi osoph$ as a Christian is
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,e $) -Epistemic Signi"icance o" 0isagreement.) p& /7&

probab $ more i(e $ to en% up being a mora rea ist an% a natura aw theorist than his atheist counterpart& A gra%uate stu%ent who stu%ies ethics at Har!ar% Uni!ersit$ is probab $ more i(e $ than a stu%ent at Austra ian @ationa Uni!ersit$ to become a ,antian& Peop e ha!e %ispositions towar%s one theor$ or another) an% 4in certain respects9 non'ran%om "actors such as the peop e with whom the$ stu%$ phi osoph$ a""ect the probabi it$ the$ wi a%opt an$ particu ar theor$& Suppose) howe!er) that our truth' see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic has no such %ispositions an% manages to ha!e e!en e+posure to a competing %octrines& *i pursuing phi osoph$ assign her to a set o" be ie"s ran%om $ or in a probabi it$ proportiona to the positions o" her epistemic peers< Perhaps the agnostic wi remain agnostic since she has no %ispositions& *ithout a goo% empirica account o" the mechanisms o" be ie" "ormation) I cannot be sure whether she has a ran%om chance o" a%opting an$ particu ar theor$) a%opting a theor$ with a probabi it$ proportionate to the percentage o" comparab $ !irtuous phi osophers accepting that theor$) or has some %i""erent probabi it$ a together& =rom her !iewpoint) the process wi seem ran%om in some wa$& So) I use ran%omness here as a hope"u $ goo%'enough substitute "or the actua mechanism that assigns be ie"s&; Un%er some circumstances) it cou % be reasonab e "or the outsi%er to thin( she has a better chance than others %o o" getting things right& =or e+amp e) consi%er a an e+ceptiona person with an IG man$ times greater than that o" the a!erage phi osopher) with an e+ceptiona memor$) who i!e% ong enough to rea% e!er$ phi osoph$ boo( e!er written) an% who e+hibite% the epistemic !irtues "ar better than ,ant or Hume %i%& This person cou % egitimate $ conc u%e that she might %o better than other phi osophers ha!e& Howe!er) no rea agnostic wi be this e+ceptiona & A goo% response to the sceptica worr$ shou % pro!i%e reason to pursue phi osoph$ "or a truth'see(ing) error'a!oi%ing
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Thus) one possib e wa$ to %e"eat outsi%er scepticism wou % be to show that a truth'see(ing) error'

a!oi%ing agnostic is actua $ more i(e $ than the rest o" us to arri!e at true %octrines& Perhaps her ac( o" prior commitments ma(es phi osophica metho%o og$ re iab e "or her) i" not "or us& *hether this counter' argument wi wor( %epen%s on empirica points about the mechanism o" be ie" "ormation as we & @ote a so that this t$pe o" response attributes our %isagreements to bias& Howe!er) suppose it can be show that the true agnostic has a goo% chance o" getting the truth& There wi sti be a sort o" e"to!er outsi%er scepticism& The outsi%er who is not an agnostic might sti regar% phi osoph$ as unre iab e) as ha!ing too great a ten%enc$ to a ow peop e to rationa iEe their prior be ie"s) etc&

agnostic with epistemic !irtue comparab e to a t$pica phi osopher.s& Phi osophers %o seem to aim "or truth& Phi osoph$.s state o" %issensus ma$ show us that phi osoph$ is not worth %oing i" truth is our goa & Pursuing phi osoph$ is not a re iab e metho% o" "in%ing to the truth about phi osophica issues& 3. What Type of efence o We Want! Suppose that accepting a phi osophica theor$ cures tooth %eca$& This wou % ma(e the theor$ a goo% thing) but not a goo% theory& Simi ar $) a goo% hammer is goo% at %ri!ing nai s& I" it is ba% at %ri!ing nai s but using it cures tooth %eca$) this ma(es the hammer a goo% thing) but not a goo% hammer& So) what is the nai to which phi osoph$ is the hammer< *e ha!e sets o" #uestions we want theories to answer& *e want phi osoph$ to get us the truth& *e want it to answer our #uestions or to show us that the #uestions were mista(es 4because the$ represent pseu%oprob ems9& There are a number o" t$pes o" %e"ences o" phi osoph$5 /& Epistemic5 Phi osoph$ is goo% because it gets us to the truth) or something reasonab $ truth' i(e 4such as un%erstan%ing9& 6& Intrinsic5 Phi osoph$ is goo% as an en% in itse "& ;& Instrumental5 Phi osoph$ is goo% "or getting some !a ues other than truth& F& Aretaic5 Phi osoph$ is goo% "or "ostering wis%om) goo% character) or !arious inte ectua !irtues& Aretaic %e"ences cou % be consi%ere% a subset o" instrumenta %e"ences& *hen aca%emic phi osophers %e"en% phi osoph$) e&g&) b$ e+p aining its !a ue on the -*h$ Stu%$ Phi osoph$<. webpages man$ %epartments post "or prospecti!e ma1ors) the$ o"ten ist %e"ences o" t$pes 6) ;) an% F& Each o" these are goo% %e"ences) an% con1oine% the$ might be e+ce ent reasons to stu%$ phi osoph$ or to pursue a phi osophica career& The$ might be e+ce ent non'epistemic reasons "or becoming an insi%er rather than an outsi%er) or "or coming to accept some phi osophica %octrines rather than remaining agnostic& Yet) u timate $ we want a %e"ence o" t$pe /& I" we %o not get that) there is something %isappointing about the phi osophica enterprise& It is not enough that phi osoph$ ea%s to some truthsH it nee%s to ea% to truths

about phi osophica issues& I" phi osophica theories he pe% us earn the truth about ph$sics) that wou % not #uite be the target !a ue& There are some %istinct $ phi osophica #uestions we want phi osoph$ to answer&F U timate $) we nee% /I& /I& Proper Epistemic5 Phi osoph$ is goo% because it gets us to the truth 4or something reasonab $ truth' i(e9 about phi osophica issues& Be ow) I wi consi%er a number o" %e"ences o" phi osoph$& In the ne+t section) I consi%er common %e"ences an% e+p ain wh$ the$ are ina%e#uate& Man$ o" them "ai because the$ %o not pro!i%e a proper epistemic %e"ence o" phi osoph$) but simp $ show it to be o" instrumenta or aretaic !a ue& In the section "o owing the ne+t) I consi%er more pressing ob1ections that ho % that there is reasonab e %isagreement among phi osophers who are epistemic peers& I" reasonab e %isagreement is possib e) this imp ies that at east some phi osophers can 1usti"ie% $ sa$ to themse !es) -E!en though m$ epistemic peers %isagree with the theor$ I be ie!e) m$ theor$ is true an% I am 1usti"ie% in be ie!ing that it is true&. I wi argue that e!en this sort o" %e"ence is not enough to satis"$ the truth' see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic& This %e"ence at best e+p ains wh$ insi%er scepticism is unwarrante%) but %oes not e+p ain wh$ outsi%er scepticism is unwarrante%& That is) the possibi it$ o" rationa %isagreement can e+p ain wh$ we phi osophers who ha!e !iews are not re#uire% to gi!e them up in ight o" %isagreement) but it %oes not e+p ain wh$ a truth' see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic shou % pursue phi osoph$ an% come to a%opt an$ !iews& ". Some Inade#uate efences In this section) I %iscuss some anti'sceptica %e"ences o" phi osoph$ I ha!e encountere%& The %e"ences are in%i!i%ua $ an% co ecti!e $ unsatis"actor$& Each %e"ence captures something important) an% co ecti!e $ the$ ma$ 1usti"$ pursuing phi osoph$& Howe!er) the$ %o not show that we can regar% phi osoph$ as pro%ucing the right sort o" !a ue>true answers to phi osophica #uestions& It is not necessar$ to go into much %epth with these %e"ences) because it can be shown rather #uic( $ that the$ are not the right t$pe o" %e"ence&
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Guestions that were once thought to be phi osophica ha!e a ten%enc$ to become #uestions "or the socia

or natura sciences& The bor%er between phi osophica an% nonphi osophica #uestions is "uEE$& Howe!er) without sa$ing how to ma(e the %istinction) I wi assume there is something i(e a core o" #uestions that we reasonab $ can e+pect to remain part o" phi osoph$&

?eca that the agnostic about phi osophica issues is consi%ering pursuing phi osoph$ with the goa o" getting true answers to phi osophica #uestions& This outsi%er sees the %egree o" %issensus an% thin(s to herse ") -At most one o" these theories "or an$ gi!en issues is correct& It.s possib e that i" I stu%$ phi osoph$) I wi pro%uce a new theor$ that competes with these others& Each o" these phi osophers thin(s her own theor$ is more i(e $ to be true than her competitors. theories& I rea iEe that i" I stu%$ phi osoph$) I wi come to thin( that wa$ about whate!er theories I come to accept as we & Howe!er) "rom m$ stan%point now) I ha!e to regar% each o" the competing theories as something i(e e#ua $ i(e $ to be true) or perhaps i(e $ to be true in proportion to how man$ goo% phi osophers accept the theor$& It.s possib e none o" them are true& I" so) then much more i(e $ than not) I wi en% up accepting a "a se theor$& So) I shou % remain an outsi%er an% an agnostic&. The genera prob em with the %e"ences iste% be ow is that e!en i" the$ gi!e this outsi%er goo% reasons to stu%$ phi osoph$ an% to accept %octrines rather than be agnostic) these %e"ences %o not gi!e the right (in% o" reason& I&e&) the$ %o not gi!e proper epistemic defences o" phi osoph$& Some o" the other %e"ences "ai because the$ rest on ba% arguments) e!en i" are attempts at proper epistemic %e"ences& A& The Argument Undermines Itself& There is a "aci e %e"ence5 The Argument against Phi osoph$ un%ermines itse "& The genera position that phi osoph$ is irrationa "ai s to pass se "'inspection& -Phi osoph$ is irrationa . is a phi osophica position& I" phi osoph$ is irrationa ) so is the !iew that phi osoph$ is irrationa & I" phi osophica argumentation ne!er estab ishes an$ position) then the anti'phi osoph$ position cannot be 1usti"ie% b$ phi osophica argumentation& The Argument against Phi osoph$ re"utes the Argument against Phi osoph$& E!en i" this %e"ence wor(s) it is embarrassing i" this is the best %e"ence phi osoph$ has& Yet) it is not ob!ious that the %e"ence succee%s& It ma$ 1ust be that a phi osoph$ is unre iab e e+cept anti'phi osoph$ phi osoph$& The outsi%er sceptic.s position is that phi osophica metho%o og$ is un i(e $ to bring her to the truth about phi osophica #uestions& One might argue that the sceptic use% phi osophica reasoning to arri!e at this conc usion) an% so the sceptic cannot consistent $ be a sceptic& Howe!er) it ma$ 1ust be that a sma set o" phi osophica issues

is answere% an% that phi osophica metho%o og$ wor(s re iab $ on a sma set o" issues) i&e&) 1ust in the areas nee%e% to ma(e the sceptic.s argument& =or instance) perhaps the sceptic nee%s probabi it$) an account o" the notion o" an epistemic peer) some notion o" re iabi it$) an% not much e se& B& isunity of Science! One cou % argue that science is ess uni"ie% than common $

thought& Thomas ,uhn c aims that the appearance o" unit$ is arge $ a m$th propagate% b$ ahistorica science te+tboo(s&A It ma$ a so be that phi osoph$ on $ appears to ha!e more %isagreement to us phi osophers because we are most "ami iar with phi osoph$& I" we were better in"orme%) we wou % rea iEe that there is 1ust as e+tensi!e %isagreement in bio og$ an% ph$sics o!er "un%amenta issues as there is in phi osoph$& This approach ma$ %e" ate science) ma(ing phi osoph$ seem ess in"erior in comparison) but it %oes not show us that phi osoph$ is truth'trac(ing& Our truth'see(ing outsi%er is not impresse%& A so) %e" ating science a so impro!es the comparati!e position o" astro og$) phreno og$) an% creationism& C& "ists of Accomplishments& Another t$pe o" %e"ence is that o""ere% b$ *i bur Urban) "ormer presi%ent o" the American Phi osophica Association& In /K6A) Urban attempte% to !a i%ate the rationa it$ an% progressi!eness o" phi osoph$ b$ isting its recent accomp ishments&8 Urban.s ist oo(s strange& Much o" it is har% to un%erstan%) so it is unc ear whether the c aims o" progress are worth much& The c earer items are prob ematic& =or one) he c aims that phi osoph$ has ma%e progress because there is no mo!ement bac( towar% ,ant& Howe!er) eight$ $ears ater) we see numerous %e"en%ers o" "orms o" transcen%enta i%ea ism) ,antian constructi!ism) an% the i(e& He a so c aims that phi osophers ha!e shown that !a ue cannot be re%uce% to something e se an% that e!o ution cannot "u $ e+p ain !a ues& Howe!er) eight$ $ears o" neo'natura ist metaethics an% sociobio og$ shows that this c aim is not ob!ious $ true& Though I agree with Urban) I ha!e man$ epistemic peers who %isagree& Thir%) he cites the growth o" ogic as a
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T& S& ,uhn) The Structure of Scientific #e$olutions 4Chicago5 Uni!ersit$ o" Chicago Press) /KK89) pp&

/;8'/;J&
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*i bur M& Urban) -Progress in Phi osoph$ in the Last Guarter Centur$.) The Philosophical #e$ie% ;A56

4/K689) pp& K;'/6;&

"orma %iscip ine& This is one o" phi osoph$.s ma1or accomp ishments) but it is not c ear that this he ps& =orma ogic ma$ ha!e ess %isagreement than other "ie %s) but it is a so the p ace where phi osoph$ comes c osest to being mathematics& An$ ist wi be contentious& Probab $) i" I were to ma(e a ist o" phi osoph$.s recent accomp ishments) it wou % seem esoteric) strange) irre e!ant) wrong) an%Lor si $ to phi osophers eight$ $ears "rom now& The outsi%er remains unimpresse%& She can oo( at such ists an% as() %o we $et (now what right action is) what 1usti"ication is) what (now e%ge is) what 1ustice is) an% so on< There remains e+tensi!e %isagreement o!er these "un%amenta issues) an% she remains worrie% that phi osoph$ is un i(e $ to %e i!er her the truth& 0& Progress as estruction!& Some phi osophers %e"en% phi osoph$ b$ sa$ing that our wor( at east shows what theories are "a se& =or instance) 3ettier %emo ishe% the 1usti"ie% true be ie" ana $sis o" (now e%ge& Guine) Putnam) an% others era%icate% ogica positi!ism& 3M%e showe% us that Principia 'athematica %i% not a+iomatise arithmetic& I" this is progress towar% truth) it must be progress b$ e imination& ?e"uting ina%e#uate past theories c ears the path "or goo% answers) but %oes not thereb$ gi!e us goo% answers& 4E!en negati!e -progress. ten%s to be re!erse%) as once %ea% %octrines) such as ?ossD mora theor$) are resurrecte%) a beit in better "orms&J9 O"ten) there are potentia $ in"inite numbers o" possib e theories in an$ sub'"ie %& So) e!en i" o!er the past 6A77 $ears o" phi osoph$) we ha!e manage% to show that a "ew thousan% theories are ina%e#uate) that %oes not show us we are an$ c oser to the truth& On the other han%) suppose there are a "inite number o" theories& I" so) permanent $ re"uting a theor$ increases the probabi it$ one wi accept the correct theor$& In this case) the agnostic might ha!e reason to pursue phi osoph$) but on $ i" enough theories ha% been or cou % re"ute% that she were more i(e $ than not going to accept the true one& But this is not the case& A%%itiona $) this %e"ence %oes not e+p ain phi osophers. actua beha!iour&
:

This phrase comes "rom Toni Noge Care$) -Is Phi osoph$ Progressi!e.) Philosophy (o% AK 4677:9)

accesse% on ine 4;L/AL7:9 at http5LLwww&phi osoph$now&orgLissueAKLAKcare$&htm


J

E&g&) ?obert Au%i) The )ood in the #ight) 4Princeton5 Princeton Uni!ersit$ Press) 677F9&

Suppose phi osoph$ is progressi!e because it can show) at east) which theories are "a se) an% the point is to arri!e at the truth though e imination& This wou % 1usti"$ constructing) %ebating) e+amining) an% attac(ing theories) but not accepting a theor$& It wou % not gi!e the agnostic reason to be ie!e an$thing& E& *onsensus Just Around the *orner! One cou % conce%e that current %issensus shows that phi osophica metho%s are ine""ecti!e) but then assert that phi osoph$ cou % become e""ecti!e in the "uture& Phi osophers use the wrong metho%s& *e nee% to continue wor(ing unti we %isco!er the right metho%s& Then agreement wi "o ow& In%ee%) we cou % e!en ta(e agreement as a sign that we ha!e %isco!ere% the right metho%s& The natura sciences began ma(ing progress when a change in metho%s was a%opte%& Scientists %roppe% the Aristote ian para%igmH i&e&) the$ began %oing e+tensi!e -arti"icia . e+periments rather than 1ust ma(ing obser!ations& A so) the$ accepte% mathematics as a too "or mo%e ing nature& Cou % there be simi ar metho%o ogica re!o utions "or phi osoph$< Phi osophers ha!e ma%e this c aim be"ore an% trie% to intro%uce new metho%s& Hobbes argue% that progress cou % be ma%e an% agreement wou % be possib e i" phi osophers wou % 1ust start with c ear $ state%) sensib e %e"initions& 0a!i% Hume ca e% the Treatise an attempt to intro%uce empirica metho%s into phi osoph$& ,ant.s Copernican ?e!o ution meant to reso !e the rationa ist'empiricist %ebates b$ e+posing an unnotice%) mista(en common assumption& Thus) see(ing consensus b$ "in%ing the right metho%s has been trie% an% has not $et wor(e%& A"ter twent$ "i!e hun%re% $ears) the c aim that consensus is going to appear once we get the right metho%s is imp ausib e& *e are more inc ine% to thin( %isagreement is a permanent "i+ture& In "act) it seems that wi%esprea% phi osophica consensus is more i(e $ to come "rom irrationa it$ an% inte ectua corruption than "rom honest in#uir$& The !er$ best phi osophers throughout histor$ ha!e pro%uce% ra%ica $ %i""erent %octrines& 4Part o" what ma(es phi osophers great is that the$ %o an e+ce ent 1ob %e"en%ing no!e %octrines&9 Thus) it seems that we shou % not e+pect con!ergence as phi osophers become more rationa & On the contrar$) our best phi osophers ten% to %i!erge rather than con!erge&

=& Philosophy as 'aieutic& Phi osoph$ gi!es birth to new "ie %s& Phi osophers in!ente% economics) po itica science) socio og$) ph$sics) bio og$) etc& I" we ta(e a rea ist !iew o" theories in these "ie %s) then phi osoph$ is in%irect $ truth'trac(ing) as it pro%uces other "ie %s that "in% the truth& Howe!er) there are two worries with this sort o" %e"ence& =irst) e!en i" it is an epistemic %e"ence o" phi osoph$) it is not a proper epistemic %e"ence& *e want phi osoph$ to "in% answers to phi osophica #uestions) such as whether 3o% e+ists) what the nature o" (now e%ge is) what is right an% wrong) an% so on& There is a !iew that phi osoph$ is the "ie % o" resi%ua specu ation) an% perhaps o!er time phi osoph$ wi se "'%estruct as it gi!es birth to specia sciences capab e o" answering its #uestions& Howe!er) arguab $) there is a common core o" #uestions that cannot be ma%e non' phi osophica & 4This point is) o" course) sub1ect to contention&9 Though) oo(ing bac(war%) we can see how some #uestions were mista(en $ treate% as phi osophica ) this %oes not gi!e us goo% reason to thin( that a #uestions wi one %a$ be turne% o!er to other "ie %s& So) inso"ar as we egitimate $ be ie!e that there wi a wa$s be phi osophica #uestions) the maieutic %e"ence o" phi osoph$ is not enough& *orse) the birth rate appears to be %ropping& Phi osoph$ is not "oun%ing new "ie %s as o"ten as it use% to& At east when !iewe% in iso ation) the maieutic %e"ence suggests that prett$ soon we shou % stop practicing phi osoph$) because the e+pecte% uti it$ 4in terms o" "oun%ing new "ie %s9 is too ow& 3& e$eloping *ritical Thin+ing S+ills& Another unsatis"actor$ %e"ence o" phi osoph$ is

the c aim that it %e!e ops critica thin(ing s(i s an% !arious inte ectua !irtues& @o %oubt phi osoph$ %oes "oster such !irtues) but the %e"ence is sti unsatis"actor$ because it is an aretaic rather than a proper epistemic %e"ence& That phi osoph$ %e!e ops such s(i s is an e+ce ent reason "or un%ergra%uates p anning to wor( in other "ie %s to ma1or in it& Sti ) the outsi%er sceptic is not impresse%) as this %e"ence not e+p ain how app $ing phi osophica s(i s to phi osophica #uestions re iab $ generates true answers& In a%%ition) this aretaic %e"ence is somewhat embarrassing) in that it %oes not %o much to %i""erentiate phi osoph$ "rom p a$ing ogic games or Su%o(u&

$. %ational isagreement Here I consi%er at greater ength the possibi it$ o" rationa %isagreement as a response to the prob em& Consi%er two or more epistemic peers ho %ing contrar$ !iews on the same issue& Can the$ each 1usti"ie% $ be ie!e either A or B< A& M$ epistemic peers %isagree with me on this issue& I am right) but the$ are each wrong& I am 1usti"ie% in ho %ing m$ !iew) but the$ are not 1usti"ie% in ho %ing theirs& B& M$ epistemic peers %isagree with me on this issue& I am right) but the$ are each wrong& I am 1usti"ie% in ho %ing m$ !iew) an% the$ are a so 1usti"ie% in ho %ing theirs& I" rationa %isagreement is possib e) then sometimes it is 1usti"iab e "or more than one member o" a %ispute to accept A) B) or something simi ar& In current epistemo og$) there is %isagreement about whether rationa %isagreement is possib e& E&g&) ?ichar% =e %man argues that reasonab e %isagreement between peers is not possib e un%er common circumstances) because there is genera $ at most a uni#ue $ 1usti"ie% be ie" in ight o" a gi!en set o" e!i%ence&K A%am E ga ho %s that when one %isco!ers that one %isagrees with an epistemic peer) one shou % gi!e the peers. !iews e#ua weight as one.s own&/7 0a!i% Christenson argues that when on has %isagreement with peers) this t$pica $ shou % occasion be ie"'re!ision towar%s the !iews o" one.s peers an% !ice !ersa&// In contrast) Thomas ,e $ ho %s that one o"ten nee% not re!ise one.s !iews in ight o" %isco!ering %isagreement with one.s peers because one be ie!es the$ ha!e mis1u%ge% the e!i%ence&/6 3i%eon ?osen ho %s that rationa it$ is permissi!e an% that sometimes one is permitte% to choose among competing theories

See ?ichar% =e %man) -?easonab e ?e igious 0isagreements.) in Louise Anton$& e%&) Philosophers ,ithout )ods) 4O+"or%5 O+"or% Uni!ersit$ Press) 677:9H ?ichar% =e %man)

-Epistemo ogica PuEE es about 0isagreement.) in Stephen Hetherington 4e%&9) Epistemology -utures 4O+"or%5 O+"or% Uni!ersit$ Press) 67789&
/7 //

A%am E ga) -?e" ection an% 0isagreement.) (o.s F/ 4677:9) pp& F:J'A76& 0a!i% Christensen) -Epistemo og$ o" 0isagreement5 the 3oo% @ews.) Philosophical #e$ie% //8 4677:9)

pp& /J:'6/:&
/6

,e $) -Epistemic Signi"icance o" 0isagreement.&

when gi!en a set o" e!i%ence&/; @icho as ?escher e+p icit $ a%%resses the prob em o" phi osophica %issensus& He argues that phi osophers choose to re1ect %i""erent theses>an% thus estab ish con" icting schoo s o" thought>because the$ accept %i""erent cogniti$e $alues or weigh the cogniti!e !a ues %i""erent $&/F Cogniti!e !a ues are the epistemic traits b$ which we assess a %octrine) e&g&) coherence) p ausibi it$) genera it$) importance) in"ormati!eness) e egance) etc& A phi osopher who more strong $ !a ues p ausibi it$ an% intuiti!eness is i(e $ to accept %i""erent %octrines "rom those a phi osopher who more strong $ !a ues s$stematicit$ wou % accept& ?escher argues that %i""erences o!er the re ati!e weights o" cogniti!e !a ues cannot "u $ be reso !e%& Accor%ing to ?escher) rationa theor$ acceptance means accepting a theor$ that %oes 1ustice to one.s cogniti!e !a ues& 0i""erent theorists can reasonab $ accept %i""erent !a ues to %i""erent %egrees& So) rationa %isagreement is possib e& It might be thought that the possibi it$ o" rationa %isagreement wi bear on whether outsi%er scepticism is warrante% in ight o" phi osophica %issensus& =or instance) Peter !an Inwagen %iscusses peop e who ha!e hear% phi osophica %ebates but ha!e remaine% agnostic& He then sa$s) I thin( that an$ phi osoph$ who %oes not wish to be a phi osophica scepticO must agree with me thatOit must be possib e "or one to be 1usti"ie% in accepting a phi osophica thesis when there are phi osophers who) b$ all ob1ecti!e an% e+terna criteria) are at east as e#ua $ we #ua i"ie% to pronounce on that thesis an% who re1ect it&/A Howe!er) it is possib e that whether the agnostic shou % become a sceptic an% whether the non'agnostic phi osopher shou % become an agnostic sceptic are %istinct prob ems& Perhaps rationa %isagreement is possib e among peers) an% this e+cuses non'agnostic phi osophers "rom ha!ing to become agnostic sceptics& Howe!er) as I wi argue in this
/;

3i%eon ?osen) -@omina ism) @atura ism) Phi osophica ?e ati!ism.) Philosophical Perspecti$es /A

4677/9) pp 8K'K/&
/F /A

@icho as ?escher) The Strife of Systems 4Pittsburgh5 Uni!ersit$ o" Pittsburgh Press) /KJA9) pp& KA'//A& Peter !an Inwagen) -It is *rong) E!er$where) A wa$s) an% "or An$one) to Be ie!e An$thing upon

Insu""icient E!i%ence.) in E eonore Stump an% Michae 2& Murra$) e%s&) Philosophy of #eligion/ The Big 0uestions 4O+"or%5 B ac(we ) /KK89) p& 6:A&

section) e!en i" this is so) this %oes not gi!e reason "or the truth'see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic to become a non'agnostic& ?ather) she shou % be a sceptic about phi osoph$& @ote that i" rationa %isagreement were impossib e) this wou % ser!e m$ thesis) as it wou % bo ster the case "or outsi%er scepticism& I" rationa %isagreement is impossib e) then insi%ers 4non'agnostic phi osophers9 shou % become sceptics& Presumab $ this means that outsi%ers 4agnostics who ha!e not stu%ie% phi osoph$9 shou % become sceptics as we ) once the$ earn that a the insi%ers are rationa $ ob igate% to become sceptics& Howe!er) I wi assume "or the sa(e o" argument that rationa %isagreement among epistemic peers is possib e& I wi argue that e!en i" it is possib e) this wi not be enough to show the truth'see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic that she ought to pursue phi osoph$ an% a%opt an$ !iews& The possibi it$ o" rationa %isagreement %oes not %e"eat outsi%er scepticism& Since I am granting that rationa %isagreement is possib e) I nee% not consi%er ?osen.s) ,e $.s) or others. arguments "or rationa %isagreement at ength or with much precision& I nee% on $ consi%er their conc usion5 rationa %isagreement is possib e& I" so) then it "o ows that when I recogniEe that m$ epistemic peers %isagree with me on some issue) sometimes I ma$ sti 1usti"ie% $ be ie!e that m$ !iew is true& 4I ta(e it that be ie!ing that P an% be ie!ing that P is true are the same thing&9 In a%%ition) %epen%ing on one.s !iew o" rationa %isagreement) this might mean I am 1usti"ie% in be ie!ing I am 1usti"ie%) an% perhaps e!en in be ie!ing that m$ peers are 1usti"ie% in ha!ing simi ar attitu%es towar% themse !es& So) what rationa %isagreement arguments %e i!er us) at the en%) is something i(e B5 -E!en though m$ epistemic peers %isagree with me on this issue) I am right) the$ are a wrong) I am 1usti"ie% in ho %ing m$ !iew) an% the$ are a so 1usti"ie% in ho %ing theirs&. I" I am 1usti"ie% in ho %ing B) then insi%er scepticism is %e"eate%& I am not re#uire% to become an agnostic an% a sceptic& Howe!er) notice that B is not what truth'see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic wants& She comes to phi osoph$ hoping to obtain true answers to phi osophica #uestions whi e a!oi%ing error& I" rationa %isagreement is possib e) then phi osophica in#uir$ can get her 1usti"ie% be ie" in !arious phi osophica %octrines e!en in the presence o" %isagreement) but that was not what she as(e% "or& A 1usti"ie% be ie" that one has the

truth on some issue is a great thing to ha!e>I certain $ wou % i(e to ha!e that>but it is a poor substitute "or bona "i%e truth& The truth'see(ing) error'a!oi%ing agnostic is not intereste% in this substitute& She might be impresse% to earn 4%epen%ing on what the stan%ar%s are "or rationa %isagreement9 that man$ or perhaps a phi osophers are 1usti"ie% in their be ie"s& *ith some goo% "ortune) we might %isco!er that all actua phi osophica %isagreements among members o" the APA are reasonab e ones) an% so no phi osopher must %o an$ be ie" re!ision or become a sceptic& Howe!er) this sti %oes not gi!e the truth'see(ing) error' a!oi%ing agnostic reason to become a be ie!er& She wants a greater than not chance o" getting true be ie"s about most phi osophica issues& E!en a /77B chance o" getting a 1ustified belief that one has the truth about philosophical issues or 4more simp $9 a /77B chance o" getting 1ustified beliefs about philosophical issues wi not moti!ate her) because there are not the same things as a true be ie"s about most phi osophica issues& The$ are poor surrogates& ?escher.s %e"ence o" phi osoph$ is particu ar $ c ear in how it "ai s to satis"$ this sort o" agnostic& 4This is not to sa$ his %e"ence is ba%) but 1ust that it is not what I ca e% a proper epistemic %e"ence&9 ?escher ho %s that it can instrumenta $ rationa to accept a theor$ base% on one.s cogniti!e !a ues& There is a p ura it$ o" reasonab e stances on the weights o" these cogniti!e !a ues& So) "or ?escher) rationa %isagreement rests precise $ on these cogniti!e !a ues rather than on truth& But our agnostic is not intereste% in these cogniti!e un ess the$ re iab $ get her to the truth& Apparent $) the$ %o not) because e+ h$pothesi the pursuit o" theories b$ %i""erent peop e with %i""erent cogniti!e !a ues or weights "or these !a ues resu ts in %issensus& The agnostic as(s us i" we can get her the truth& In ight o" %issensus) apparent $ we ha!e to sa$ no& A we can o""er is 1usti"ie% be ie"& Bro%n Uni$ersity Box 2334 Pro$idence5 #I 32672 Jason8Brennan9bro%n!edu