Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 10, pp 2539–2566 | Cite as

Framing how we think about disagreement

  • Joshua AlexanderEmail author
  • Diana Betz
  • Chad Gonnerman
  • John Philip Waterman


Disagreement is a hot topic right now in epistemology, where there is spirited debate between epistemologists who argue that we should be moved by the fact that we disagree and those who argue that we need not. Both sides to this debate often use what is commonly called “the method of cases,” designing hypothetical cases involving peer disagreement and using what we think about those cases as evidence that specific normative theories are true or false, and as reasons for believing as such. With so much weight being given in the epistemology of disagreement to what people think about cases of peer disagreement, our goal in this paper is to examine what kinds of things might shape how people think about these kinds of cases. We will show that two different kinds of framing effect shape how people think about cases of peer disagreement, and examine both what this means for how the method of cases is used in the epistemology of disagreement and what this might tell us about the role that motivated cognition is playing in debates about which normative positions about peer disagreement are right and wrong.


Epistemology of disagreement Experimental philosophy Framing effects Method of cases 



We would like to thank the following for valuable feedback on earlier versions of this paper: Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols, Jonathan Weinberg, members of the Arizona Experimental Philosophy Lab, members of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, participants at the 2014 Buffalo X-Phi Conference, Daniel Howard-Snyder’s three-day conference Intellectual Humility: Its Nature, Value, and Implications, the capstone conference for The Science of Intellectual Humility, and the 2016 Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and an anonymous reviewer for this journal. Support was provided by the Fuller Theological Seminary/Thrive Center in concert with the John Templeton Foundation and by the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.


  1. Alexander, J. (2010). Is experimental philosophy philosophically significant? Philosophical Psychology, 23, 331–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander, J. (2012). Experimental philosophy: An introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  3. Alexander, J. (2016a). Thought experiments, mental models, and experimental philosophy. In J. Nado (Ed.), Advances in experimental philosophy and philosophical methodology (pp. 53–68). New York: Bloomsbury Press.Google Scholar
  4. Alexander, J. (2016b). Philosophical expertise. In W. Buckwalter & J. Sytsma (Eds.), Companion to experimental philosophy (pp. 557–567). New York: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Alexander, J., Mallon, R., & Weinberg, J. (2010). Accentuate the negative. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1, 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alexander, J., & Weinberg, J. (2007). Analytic epistemology and experimental philosophy. Philosophy Compass, 2, 56–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alexander, J., & Weinberg, J. (2014). The “unreliability” of epistemic intuitions. In E. Machery & E. O’Neill (Eds.), Current controversies in experimental philosophy (pp. 128–145). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2006). See what you want to see: Motivational influences on visual perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 612–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cappelen, H. (2012). Philosophy Without Intuitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Christensen, D. (2007). Epistemology of disagreement: The good news. Philosophical Review, 116, 187–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christensen, D. (2009). Disagreement as evidence: The epistemology of controversy. Philosophy Compass, 4, 756–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke, S. (2013). Intuitions as evidence, philosophical expertise and the development challenge. Philosophical Papers, 42, 175–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cullen, S. (2010). Survey-driven romanticism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1, 275–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dawson, E., Gilovich, T., & Regan, D. (2002). Motivated reasoning and performance on the Wason selection task. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1379–1387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Demaree-Cotton, J. (2016). Do framing effects make moral intuitions unreliable? Philosophical Psychology, 29, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. DePaul, M., & Ramsey, W. (1998). Rethinking intuition. Latham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  17. Deutsch, M. (2015). The Myth of the Intuitive: Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Method. Cambridge: MIT PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ditto, P., & Lopez, D. (1992). Motivated skepticism: Use of differential decision criteria for preferred and nonpreffered conclusions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 568–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ditto, P., Scepansky, J., Munro, G., Apanovitch, A., & Lockhart, L. (1998). Motivated sensitivity to preference-inconsistent information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 53–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dunning, D., Leuenberger, A., & Sherman, D. (1995). A new look at motivated inference: Are self-serving theories of success of product of motivational forces? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 58–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elga, A. (2007). Reflection and disagreement. Nous, 41, 478–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Elgin, C. (2010). Persistent disagreement. In R. Feldman & T. Warfield (Eds.), Disagreement (pp. 53–68). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Enoch, D. (2010). Not just a truthometer: Taking oneself seriously (but not too seriously) in cases of peer disagreement. Mind, 119, 953–997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Feldman, R. (2006). Epistemological puzzles about disagreement. In S. Hetherington (Ed.), Epistemology futures (pp. 216–236). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gilovich, T. (1991). How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life. New York: The Free PressGoogle Scholar
  26. Grundmann, T. (2010). Some hope for intuitions: A reply to Weinberg. Philosophical Psychology, 23, 481–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hales, S. (2006). Relativism and the foundations of philosophy. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hawthorne, J., & Srinivasan, A. (2013). Disagreement without transparency: Some bleak thoughts”. In D. Christensen & J. Lackey (Eds.), The epistemology of disagreement: New essays (pp. 9–30). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Horvath, J. (2010). How (not) to react to experimental philosophy. Philosophical Psychology, 23, 447–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kaplan, M. (2000). To what must an epistemology be true. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 61, 279–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kelly, T. (2005). The epistemic significance of disagreement. In J. Hawthorne & T. Szabo Gendler (Eds.), Oxford studies in epistemology (Vol. 1, pp. 167–196). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kelly, T. (2010). Peer disagreement and higher order evidence. In R. Feldman & T. Warfield (Eds.), Disagreement (pp. 111–174). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knobe, J. (2007a). Experimental philosophy. Philosophy Compass, 2, 81–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Knobe, J. (2007b). Experimental philosophy and its philosophical significance. Philosophical Explorations, 10, 119–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivated reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 480–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lackey, J. (2010). What should we do when we disagree? In J. Hawthorne & T. Szabo Gendler (Eds.), Oxford studies in epistemology (pp. 274–293). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Lackey, J. (2014). Epistemology of disagreement. Oxford Bibliographies. doi: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396577-0137.Google Scholar
  38. Liao, S. M., Wiegmann, A., Alexander, J., & Vong, G. (2012). Putting the trolley in order: Experimental philosophy and the loop case. Philosophical Psychology, 25, 661–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lombrozo, T. (2009). The role of moral commitments in moral judgment. Cognitive Science, 33, 273–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lord, C., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 259–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ludwig, K. (2007). The epistemology of thought experiments: First person versus third person approaches. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 31, 128–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Machery, E. (2011). Thought experiments and philosophical knowledge. Metaphilosophy, 42, 191–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Machery, E. (2012). Expertise and intuitions about reference. Theoria, 27, 37–54.Google Scholar
  44. Machery, E. (2017). Philosophy within its proper bounds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Machery, E., Stich, S., Rose, D., Chatterjee, A., Karasawa, K., Struchiner, N., Sirker, S., Naoki, U., & Hashimoto, T. (forthcoming). Gettier was framed! In E. McCready et al. (Eds.), Epistemology for the rest of the world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Nadelhoffer, T., & Feltz, A. (2008). The actor-observer bias and moral intuitions: Adding fuel to Sinnott-Armstrong’s fire. Neuroethics, 1, 133–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Nado, J. (2014). Philosophical expertise. Philosophy Compass, 9, 631–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nado, J. (2015). Philosophical expertise and scientific expertise. Philosophical Psychology, 28, 1026–1044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Petrinovich, L., & O’Neill, P. (1996). Influence of wording and framing effects on moral intuitions. Ethology and Sociobiology, 17, 145–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rini, R. (2013). Analogies, moral intuitions, and the expertise defense. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 5, 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ryberg, J. (2012). Moral intuitions and the expertise defense. Analysis, 73, 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schaeffer, N. C., & Presser, S. (2003). The science of asking questions. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 65–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schwarz, N. (1996). Cognition and communication: Judgmental biases, research methods, and the logic of conversation. Mahwah: Erlbaum Publishers.Google Scholar
  54. Schwitzgebel, E., & Cushman, F. (2012). Expertise in moral reasoning? Order effects on moral judgment in professional philosophers and non-philosophers. Mind and Language, 27, 135–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schwitzgebel, E., & Cushman, F. (2015). Philosophers’ biased judgments persist despite training, expertise and reflection. Cognition, 141, 127–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2008). Framing moral intuitions. In W. Sinnott-Armstrong (Ed.), Moral psychology, volume 2: The cognitive science of morality—Intuition and diversity (pp. 47–76). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  57. Sosa, E. (2007). Experimental philosophy and philosophical intuition. Philosophical Studies, 132(1), 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sripada, C., & Konrath, S. (2011). Telling more than we can know about intentional action. Mind and Language, 26, 353–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Swain, S., Alexander, J., & Weinberg, J. (2008). The instability of philosophical intuitions: Running hot and cold on Truetemp. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 76, 138–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Thomson, J. (1985). The trolley problem. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 36, 359–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tobia, K., Buckwalter, W., & Stich, S. (2013). Moral intuitions: Are philosophers experts? Philosophical Psychology, 26, 629–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1981). The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 211, 453–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Uhlmann, E., Pizarro, D., Tannenbaum, D., & Ditto, P. (2009). The motivated use of moral principles. Judgment and Decision Making, 4, 476–491.Google Scholar
  64. Weatherson, B. (2013). Disagreements, philosophical and otherwise. In D. Christensen & J. Lackey (Eds.), The epistemology of disagreement: New essays (pp. 54–76). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Weinberg, J. (2008). How to challenge intuitions empirically without risking skepticism. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 31, 318–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Weinberg, J., Gonnerman, C., Buckner, C., & Alexander, J. (2010). Are philosophers expert intuiters? Philosophical Psychology, 23, 331–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Williamson, T. (2007). The Philosophy of Philosophy. New York: Blackwell Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Worsnip, A. (2014). Disagreement about disagreement? What disagreement about disagreement? Philosophers’ Imprint, 14, 1–20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentSiena CollegeLoudonvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLoyola University – MarylandBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Southern IndianaEvansvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of History and PhilosophyUniversity of New EnglandBiddefordUSA

Personalised recommendations