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Group Disagreement: A Belief Aggregation Perspective

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The debate on the epistemology of disagreement has so far focused almost exclusively on cases of disagreement between individual persons. Yet, many social epistemologists agree that at least certain kinds of groups are equally capable of having beliefs that are open to epistemic evaluation. If so, we should expect a comprehensive epistemology of disagreement to accommodate cases of disagreement between group agents, such as juries, governments, companies, and the like. However, this raises a number of fundamental questions concerning what it means for groups to be epistemic peers and to disagree with each other. In this paper, we explore what group peer disagreement amounts to given that we think of group belief in terms of List and Pettit’s (Econ Philos 18:89–110, 2002; Group agency: the possibility, design, and status of corporate agents, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011) ‘belief aggregation model’. We then discuss how the so-called ‘equal weight view’ of peer disagreement is best accommodated within this framework. The account that seems most promising to us says, roughly, that the parties to a group peer disagreement should adopt the belief that results from applying the most suitable belief aggregation function for the combined group on all members of the combined group. To motivate this view, we test it against various intuitive cases, derive some of its notable implications, and discuss how it relates to the equal weight view of individual peer disagreement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4033-4058
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • Belief aggregation, Collective epistemology, Equal weight view, Group disagreement, Judgment aggregation, Peer disagreement

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