Do computer simulations support the Argument from Disagreement?
- 279 Downloads
According to the Argument from Disagreement (AD) widespread and persistent disagreement on ethical issues indicates that our moral opinions are not influenced by moral facts, either because there are no such facts or because there are such facts but they fail to influence our moral opinions. In an innovative paper, Gustafsson and Peterson (Synthese, published online 16 October, 2010) study the argument by means of computer simulation of opinion dynamics, relying on the well-known model of Hegselmann and Krause (J Artif Soc Soc Simul 5(3):1–33, 2002; J Artif Soc Soc Simul 9(3):1–28, 2006). Their simulations indicate that if our moral opinions were influenced at least slightly by moral facts, we would quickly have reached consensus, even if our moral opinions were also affected by additional factors such as false authorities, external political shifts and random processes. Gustafsson and Peterson conclude that since no such consensus has been reached in real life, the simulation gives us increased reason to take seriously the AD. Our main claim in this paper is that these results are not as robust as Gustafsson and Peterson seem to think they are. If we run similar simulations in the alternative Laputa simulation environment developed by Angere and Olsson (Angere, Synthese, forthcoming and Olsson, Episteme 8(2):127–143, 2011) considerably less support for the AD is forthcoming.
KeywordsArgument from Disagreement Computer simulation Formal epistemology Bayesianism Probability Trust
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Angere, S. (forthcoming). Knowledge in a social network. Synthese.Google Scholar
- Boyd R. N. (1988) How to be a moral realist. In: Sayre-McCord G. (ed) Essays on moral realism. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp 181–228Google Scholar
- Doris, J., & Stich, S. (2006). Moral psychology: Empirical approaches. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.Google Scholar
- Gustafsson, J. E., & Peterson, M. (2010). A computer simulation of the argument from disagreement. Synthese, published online 16 October.Google Scholar
- Hegselmann R., Krause U. (2002) Opinion dynamics and bounded confidence models, analysis, and simulation. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 5(3): 1–33Google Scholar
- Hegselmann R., Krause U. (2006) Truth and cognitive division of labour: First steps towards a computer aided social epistemology. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 9(3): 1–28Google Scholar
- Jelen T., Wilcox C. (2003) Causes and consequences of public attitudes toward abortion: A review and research agenda. Political Research Quarterly 56(4): 489–500Google Scholar
- Mackie J. L. (1977) Ethics: Inventing right and wrong. Penguin, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
- Olsson, E. J. (forthcoming). Is polarization rational? A Bayesian simulation model of group deliberation.Google Scholar
- Olsson, E. J., & Vallinder, A. (forthcoming). Norms of assertion and communication in social networks. Synthese.Google Scholar
- Zollman, K. (forthcoming). Social network structure and the achievement of consensus. Politics, Philosophy and Economics.Google Scholar