September 2, 2017 at 5:00 pm

History and Philosophy of Science | Consensus: Sometime It Doesn’t Add Up, Sept. 29

Dr. John Beatty

Dr. John Beatty

Lectures in the History and Philosophy of Science presents Dr. John Beatty discussing “Consensus: Sometime It Doesn’t Add Up” on Friday, Sept. 29, at 4 p.m. in Scripps 111.

Beatty is Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia.

This is event is sponsored by the Ohio University Philosophy Department and the Spetnagel Development Fund.

Abstract: Perhaps the most familiar notion of “consensus” involves some sort of counting—e.g., vote tallying—resulting in unanimity or a majority. But consensus is a heterogeneous category. And some important forms, as practiced, are quite different from this. I will consider a form of consensus that is more collective than aggregative; it goes by various names, referring to its various aspects: “decision by interpretation,” “apparent consensus,” “nemine contradicente,” “joint agreement.” It is not about counting, nor about unanimity or a majority. What especially concerns me here is the manner in which this form of consensus represents the epistemic state-of-play of a community of experts, without revealing differences among the members with regard to the issues under consideration. Such apparent consensus can therefore mask considerable disagreement. I will discuss contexts and senses in which such decision procedures are, and are not, advantageous for groups of experts. I will illustrate differences between such consensus practices, and the more commonly analyzed unanimity and majority practices, with reference to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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