by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse
Deep disagreements are disagreements where two sides agree on so little that there are no shared resources for reasoned resolution. In some cases, argument itself is impossible. The fewer shared facts or means for identifying them, the deeper the disagreement.
Some hold that many disagreements are deep in this way. They contend that reasoned argument has very little role to play in discussions of the things that divide us. Call these the deep disagreement pessimists – they claim that many of the disputes we face cannot be addressed by shared reasoning.
There are also deep disagreement optimists. Their view is that deep disagreements are intractable only for contingent reasons – perhaps we have not yet surveyed all the available evidence, or we are waiting on new evidence, or there is some background shared methodological principle yet to be uncovered. With deep disagreement, the optimist holds, it is hasty to give up on rational exchange, because something useful is likely available, and the costs of passing such rational resolution up are too high. Better to keep the critical conversation going.
Disputes among pessimists and optimists regularly turn on the practical question: Are there actual deep disagreements? The debates over abortion and affirmative action were initially taken to be exemplary of disagreements that are, indeed, deep. Later, secularist and theists outlooks on the norms of life were taken to instantiate a divide of the requisite depth. More recently, conspiracy theories have been posed as points of view at deep odds with mainstream thought.
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