Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Understanding without Agreement

[Update: The second and third links in the text below now take you to a newer version of this paper.]

I've been thinking about the relationship between understanding and agreement, specifically, about whether there are cases where we can't really be said to understand a person with whom we disagree.

I've been drafting a short paper about this, and would appreciate any comments. It's a bit compressed, but I'm hoping, if the project seems on the right track, to try to submit it to a conference or two in the spring.

Here's a short abstract:

When two people disagree about a matter of judgment (say, about a moral issue), the disagreement will often be explained in terms of psychological differences. This leaves it open that one party to the disagreement could understand the other without agreeing with her. This paper explores the thesis that there are cases in which understanding and agreement do not come apart because psychological explanation is not always an adequate way of explaining the disagreement. That is, sometimes it may be that we cannot claim to understand a person unless we have also come to agree with her.

Again, the paper is here.

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