Moral Disagreement and Higher-Order Evidence

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This paper sketches a general account of how to respond in an epistemically rational way to moral disagreement. Roughly, the account states that when two parties, A and B, disagree as to whether p, A says p while B says not-p, this is higher-order evidence that A has made a cognitive error on the first-order level of reasoning in coming to believe that p (and likewise for B with respect to not-p). If such higher-order evidence is not defeated, then one rationally ought to reduce one’s confidence with respect to the proposition in question. We term this the higher-order evidence account (the HOE account), and present it as a superior to what we might call standard conciliationism, which holds that when agents A and B disagree about p, and are (known) epistemic peers, they should both suspend judgement about p or adjust their confidence towards the mean of A and B’s prior credences in p. Many have suspected that standard conciliationism is implausible and may have skeptical implications. After presenting the HOE account, we put it to work by applying it to a range of cases of moral disagreement, including those that have feature in recent debates assuming standard conciliationism. We show that the HOE account support reasonable, non-skeptical verdicts in a range of cases. Note that this is a paper on moral disagreement, not on the HOE account, thus the account is merely stated here, while defended more fully elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1103-1120
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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