Disagreement and Legitimacy: Value Questions and Factual Questions

Reasonable disagreement regarding value questions and religious convictions has been debated in political philosophy for decades, with important contributions by Rawls, Barry and many others. Part of the aims of these discussions has been to identify conditions under which decisions regarding controversial moral and political questions are legitimate. Only very recently, disagreement about factual questions has been the subject to an intense discussion in epistemology. However, despite their obvious similarities and relevance for each other, the two discussions have largely proceeded independently of each other. The aim of the workshop will be to explore connections between the two philosophical problems, seeking to focus on questions such as: do views on reasonable disagreement in political philosophy depend on epistemological assumptions that have recently been uncovered in the epistemological debate on disagreement. Reasonable disagreement in political philosophy usually concerns value questions. But we evidently disagree about politically important factual questions, such as those involved in the global warming debate. Do views about reasonable disagreement carry over to factual questions? Some political or democratic decisions bind everyone in a society, but depends assumptions that are controversial for some of those affected. When are such decisions legitimate?

Thursday, February 10

13.00 - 14.15: Karin Jonch-Clausen - Social Epistemic Liberalism and Non-Scientific Belief
14.15 - 15.30: Simon May: Secular Justification and Religious Disagreement

Friday, February 11
09.15 - 09.30: Coffee and tea
09.30 - 10.45: John Horton - Reasonable Disagreement
10.45 - 12.15: Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen and Lars Binderup - Barry vs. Rawls: Two Epistemological Paths to State-Neutrality
12.15 - 13.15: Lunch
13.15 - 14.30: Klemens Kappel - Factual Disagreement and Political Legitimacy
14.30 - 15.45: Kristoffer Ahlstrom - Why Deliberative Democracy (Still) is Untenable

See below for a list of abstracts.

Everyone is welcome to attend, and registration is free. If you would like to join us for lunch on Friday, please contact Klemens Kappel beforehand (see e-mail below).


For further questions, please contact Klemens Kappel (kappel@hum.ku.dk).

The Nordic Network on Political Ethics and The Velux Foundation.

John Horton: Reasonable Disagreement
This paper takes as its point of departure Rawls's idea of reasonable disagreement and its basis in what he calls 'the burdens of judgement'. It examines a dispute between Brian Barry and Susan Menus about whether or not the implications of the burdens must be to some degree sceptical. I tentatively suggest that this depends on which of the burdens is in play. The paper then very briefly tries to say something about whether this conception of reasonable disagreement is of much help when it comes to political decisions about what should be tolerated and why, inclining to the view that for the most part it is not.

Kristoffer Ahlstrom: Why Deliberative Democracy (Still) is Untenable
A common objection to deliberative democracy is that available evidence on public ignorance and social psychological bias makes it unlikely that social deliberation among the public is a process likely to yield accurate outputs. The present paper considers two responses to this objection, both due to Robert Talisse. The first response is that the correct conclusion to draw from the evidence is not that we should give up on deliberation, but simply that we must work harder to ensure that the deliberative process improves the deliberators epistemic situation. The main problem for this response is that there are non-deliberative alternatives—most prominently information markets—available that do a better job from an epistemic point of view than does social deliberation. This raises a question: Why keep bothering with deliberation? The second response attempts to answer this question by arguing that only socially deliberative practices can confer legitimacy on the resulting policies. In response to this, it is argued that  evidence actually suggests that information markets carry more promise than does social deliberation when it comes to offering the kinds of justifications relevant to legitimacy.

Nikolaj JLL Pedersen & Lars Binderup: Barry vs. Rawls: two epistemological paths to state-neutrality
The article discusses the debate between Barry and Rawls on legitimacy and state-neutrality in light of the recent literature on the epistemic significance of disagreement. We suggest that the differences between the two can be traced to their sympathetic stance towards respectively conformism (Barry) and non-conformism (Rawls).

Klemens Kappel: Factual disagreement and political legitimacy
Rather often we have persistent significant disagreements about which common policies to pursue, and we disagree even after extensive debate and exchange of reasons. In such cases, we do not reach a settled agreement about what policy is right, just, fair or morally best, or even morally permissible. I will assume that in such cases the policies we adopt and enforce on everyone should at least be legitimate. So, it is a moral requirement - or a requirement of justice - that policies that are enforced despite persistent and significant disagreements about their moral status are legitimate. My interest here is how the question of legtimicy should apply to disagreements about factual matters, or perhaps more accurately, to disagreements about policies trace back to disagreement about factual matters. Clearly, disagreements about factual matters may ground disagreements about policy-questions, since which policy one may reasonably support or favour may crucially depend on what factual non-moral factual beliefs one holds.

Karin Jønch-Clausen: Social Epistemic Liberalism and Non-Scientific Belief
Recently Robert Talisse has argued that a socio-epistemic justification of liberal democracy (SEJ) is available that accommodates most, if not all, reasonable citizens and moral worldviews. We argue that SEJ either (i) has a more limited scope since it excludes as irrational a significant group of religious citizens who base their moral worldviews on non-scientific beliefs or (ii) SEJ does include these citizens as rational, but many of them will reasonably reject SEJ’s central claim that open reason-exchange secured by liberal institutions is conducive to proper moral inquiry.