Webs of Faith as a Source of Reasonable Disagreement

Critical Review, Forthcoming

30 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2011 Last revised: 2 Sep 2014

See all articles by Gregory Brazeal

Gregory Brazeal

University of South Dakota Law School

Date Written: January 1, 2011


Contemporary political theorists and philosophers of epistemology and religion have often drawn attention to the problem of reasonable disagreement. The idea that deliberators may reasonably persist in a disagreement even under ideal deliberative conditions and even over the long term poses a challenge to the common assumption that rationality should lead to consensus. This essay proposes a previously unrecognized source of reasonable disagreement, based on the notion that an individual's beliefs are rationally related to one another in a fabric of sentences or web of beliefs. The essay argues that an individual's beliefs may not form a single, seamless web, but that there may exist smaller, largely self-contained webs with few or no rational relations to the larger web. If such "webs of faith" exist, they could pose a significant obstacle to the goals of liberal democratic theorists. In particular, they might render futile the search for common ground as a starting point for deliberative agreement under certain circumstances. The essay concludes by proposing an alternative form of deliberation.

Keywords: Reasonable Disagreement, Rationally Motivated Consensus, Deliberative Democracy, Web of Belief, Web of Faith, Dissensus, Common Ground, Rawls, Quine, Habermas, Guttmann, Religious Belief, Ideological Belief, Philosophical Belief, Conspiracy Theories

Suggested Citation

Brazeal, Gregory, Webs of Faith as a Source of Reasonable Disagreement (January 1, 2011). Critical Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1751225

Gregory Brazeal (Contact Author)

University of South Dakota Law School ( email )

414 E. Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
United States

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