Even among those whom we might regard as epistemic peers, scientists often disagree. Some philosophers hold that given some evidence and assuming epistemic peerage, there is only one rational option regarding what scientists should believe. Thus, either there is significant irrationality in scientific practice, or the uniqueness thesis is false. I distinguish two cases for thinking about this: relatively transient disagreement (RTD) and relatively stable disagreement (RSD). I suggest that in cases of RTD, disagreement is often better characterized in terms of things like contrary hopes, best bets, and heuristic commitments than in terms of contrary beliefs per se. In cases of RSD, I suggest that disagreement does not generally take the form of contrary beliefs but rather juxtapositions of belief and agnosticism, which are indicative of underlying commitments that are not themselves propositional or evidential but that are nonetheless rational. The upshot is the falseness of the uniqueness thesis and a moderately permissive conception of rationality appropriate to scientific disagreement.
Time: 4:30 – 6:00 pm
Location: Social Science Research Center, Woodburn Hall