Adjudicating Disagreements

I wanted to get back to my religion & epistemology posts again. Back in March I asked the question of what truth does. Especially in academics and policy truth is hugely important. It’s worth thinking through why that is. I tied our concern with truth as an issue with our practices of asserting, the virtue of honesty, the ethics of belief, and related issues. That is I think each of us wants to believe true things and disbelieve false things. I think we have a duty of develop these virtues.

Now philosophers have notoriously disagreed over what truth means. Last time I mentioned Descartes but I don’t want to get too sidetracked into theories of truth. Rather I want to stay focused on what’s behind our concern with truth. A large concern I didn’t mention last time was our social interactions. That is how do we adjudicate disagreements? I think truth (or something like it) ends up being quite important in our making judgments and resolving disagreements. Even those philosophical movements that reject more traditional senses of truth tend to still hold to the value of adjudicating disagreements. So for example Richard Rorty who rejects most senses of truth still substitutes for it an intersubjective agreement among the members of a community. While he rejects any notion of absolute truth, that function of intersubjective adjudication remains.

This is why I’m not sure theories of truth matter that much ultimately. What really counts is how a community resolves disagreements.

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