Inferior Disagreement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Literature in the epistemology of disagreement has focused on peer disagreement: disagreement between those with shared evidence and equal cognitive abilities. Additional literature focuses on the perspective of amateurs who disagree with experts. However, the appropriate epistemic reaction from superiors who disagree with inferiors remains underexplored. Prima facie, this may seem an uninteresting set of affairs. If A is B’s superior, and A has good reason to believe she is B’s superior, A appears free to dismiss B’s disagreement. However, a closer look will show otherwise. I first distinguish competent from incompetent inferiors and then argue that disagreement from the former often gives superiors reason to adjust credence and reevaluate belief. In other words, epistemic inferiority alone is insufficient grounds for dismissing opinion. More nuanced difficulties arise with incompetent inferiors. When superiors disagree with incompetents, this might provide evidence to bolster belief credence; however, agreement from incompetents can defeat justification. In either instance, inferior opinion carries epistemic weight. Yet, this fails to cover all ground; at times, superiors learn nothing from inferior disagreement. I finish by exploring these uninformative disagreements, how to distinguish them from the informative cases, and the proper epistemic reactions thereof.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-283
Number of pages21
JournalActa Analytica
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Disagreement
  • Evidence
  • Inferiors
  • Justification
  • Peers
  • Superiors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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