The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 111, Issue 11, November 2014

Robert Pasnau
Pages 608-630

Veiled Disagreement

A theory of how rationally to respond to disagreement requires a clear account of how to measure comparative reliability. Such an account faces a Generality Problem analogous to the well-known problem that besets reliabilist theories of knowledge. But whereas the problem for reliabilism has proved recalcitrant, I show that a solution in the case of disagreement is available. That solution is to measure reliability in the most fine-grained way possible, in light of all the circumstances of the present disagreement, but behind a veil that precludes taking into account which views are one's own. This resolves two of the leading obstacles to understanding what disagreement rationally requires: the objection from neglecting the evidence, and the objection from absurd disagreements. Appealing to the contractualist's veil of ignorance also sheds an interesting light on the very different ways in which disagreement gets resolved in epistemology versus political theory. The comparison raises troubling questions on both sides, because it seems doubtful that the political theorist's usual strategies are epistemically rational, and it seems doubtful that the epistemologist's usual strategies are sufficiently attuned to what we care about.