1st Copenhagen Conference in Epistemology: Free Speech, Disagreement and Common Belief

The Epistemology of Liberal Democracy

—Free Speech, Disagreement and Common Belief


University of Copenhagen, Denmark

November 20-21, 2008


One of the most important and cherished features of liberal democracy is the value placed on freedom of speech and inquiry. Regimes of free speech and free inquiry inevitably lead to disagreement, not only about issues of value, but also about very important factual matters. Hence, another important feature of liberal democracy is the commitment to the toleration of disagreement, even over crucial factual matters.

Clearly, both features are extremely important for citizens within liberal democracies if they wish to arrive at true or justified beliefs about the world, and to correct mistaken views. Yet, these features of liberal democracies are rarely discussed from an epistemological point of view, despite their obvious epistemological import.

The aim of this conference is to foster new research in epistemology as well as cross-disciplinary research relating to the epistemological questions raised by liberal democracy. The topics for the conference will include but not be limited to the following:

  • What are the epistemological features of free speech and free inquiry? Under what conditions will free speech and free inquiry promote truth and justified belief?
  • How should one should one alter one’s beliefs in the light of disagreement?
  • Under what circumstances will voting be truth-conducive?
  • What are reasonable ways to aggregate different factual judgements?
  • How should public policy take into account widespread disagrement over important factual matters?
  • When should one trust experts, in particular when purported experts disagree?
  • Applied issues, basic epistemological issues, as well metodologial issues concerning these questions: How should questions such as these be studied? How can philosophy contribute?

Organizers: Klemens Kappel, Erik Olsson, Duncan Pritchard, Jesper Kallestrup, Mikkel Gerken.

More information: http://csec08.mef.ku.dk/

Students at the University of Copenhagen are welcome to attend all talks without registering or paying the conference fee, but seating is limited by availability.