Beyond Logic: Why Do We Disagree?

A recent paper by Helen de Cruz talks about why two educated people who are exposed to the same evidence disagree on the conclusion of an argument. The reasons aren't all that simple.

Two people look at the same arguments. The arguments are valid, the evidence that supports the premises are available to both people, and they both have the requisite training and intellectual skill to understand the subtleties of the domain. Why do they disagree? Differences in how people position themselves relative to arguments affect not only academic discourse but challenge dialogue in much more pedestrian discussions as well. It might be handy if the irresistible force of logic was much more irresistible than it appears to be. But as anyone who ever has engaged in any kind of a disagreement knows, there is much more at play psychologically and epistemically in how arguments are conducted than yielding to the pure logic of an argument.

While focused mainly on religious disagreement, I thought a recent paper  by Helen de Cruz (really just a collection of her thoughts on the subject) gets at some ideas that are critical ideas that affect discourse academic and otherwise. Humans aren’t Turing machines. Background beliefs, intuition, emotion, even physiology all play a role in how we think about evidence and the dynamics of argumentation. Thankfully, she gives some taxonomic help too by providing terms one can use to categorize various responses to these dynamics

As someone who is interesting in finding some unification across epistemic theories, I’m pleased to see that some of her ideas align with the work Robert McKim is doing.

“There seems to be an easy escape: one common response, both by steadfasters and conciliationists has been that we need not revise our beliefs in complex messy cases if we have reason to believe that we have access to some sort of insight that our epistemic peer lacks.”

You can read the article here

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