Collaborative Disagreement: Coming to See the Evidence in a New Light

Month/Year of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)



First Advisor

William Melanson


Many disagreements regarding complex matters are essentially disagreements about how evidence ought to be assessed. After all, the way in which one assigns weight and strength to various pieces of evidence determines what one believes. These “evidential valuations” are the product of one’s previous experiences and background beliefs. One’s evidential valuations are determined by the ways of understanding the world one acquires from past evidence and the authority figures one recognizes. Accordingly, the greater the difference in two individuals’ background experiences, the greater the difference in their evidential valuations. Thus, disagreements over complex matters such as philosophy, religion, and politics often arise. While two individuals might be just as well-informed, equally intelligent, and have thoroughly discussed the relevant evidence, they disagree because of differences in the ways they assess the evidence at hand. However, their current disagreement is an opportunity for them to discuss how their background experiences or beliefs have influenced their evidential valuations. To engage in such a discussion is to engage in collaborative disagreement, during which one develops a deeper appreciation for one’s interlocutor’s view and often comes to see the evidence “in a new light.” This new perspective can enable one to refine one’s evidential valuations and even to change one’s views. Engaging in collaborative disagreement can allow us to understand the world through others’ perspectives, thus cultivating more balanced views and developing more intellectual respect for those across ideological aisles. Consequently, collaborative disagreement facilitates meaningful cooperation despite deep disagreements.