Lauren Olin: “Comic Disagreement”

Comic judgments, like moral and epistemic judgments, are normative. While normative disagreement has received much attention in moral and epistemic domains, comic disagreement has been neglected. This paper argues that there exists substantial overlap between the human capacity for comic judgment and other human capacities for normative judgment. Normative capacities appear to be functionally independent, to be supported by many of the same cognitive systems, and to serve many of the same purposes in social coordination. Therefore, it is plausible to suppose that facts about comic disagreement are relevant to understanding normative disagreement more generally.

I first explain why the comic domain should be considered normative. I expand and improve on arguments for the view that there are significant points of analogy between moral and epistemic forms of normativity, and claim that normative domains in general cannot be well understood independently of one another. I then articulate and defend an account of comic disagreement, and argue that the account can be usefully extended to analyze disagreement in moral and epistemic domains. In conclusion, I contend that (1) prominent arguments from moral disagreement to metaethical relativism are overstated and (2) prominent arguments from scientific convergence to epistemic realism are overstated.

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