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Joshua Halberstam

Joshua Halberstam  received his Ph.D. in philosophy from New York University, has taught philosophy at NYU, TC/Columbia University and  currently teaches Philosophy and Communications at BCC/City University of New York.  He has published widely in epistemology, ethics, legal theory and philosophy of religion and is currently working on a book on judgment and systemic confusion. He is also the author of the novel A Seat at the Table and has written several books in the area of Jewish Studies. His most recent book is The Blind Angel: New Old Chassidic Tales, a translation of Chassidic stories from the Yiddish. 



Epistemic Disagreement and ’Elu We’Elu

Issue: 6:2 (The twenty second issue)
A lively exchange in recent epistemology considers the problem of
epistemic disagreement between peers: disagreement between those who share
evidence and have equal cognitive abilities. Two main views have emerged
about how to proceed in such circumstances: be steadfast in maintaining one’s
own view or conciliate, and suspend or reduce one’s confidence in one’s belief.
Talmudic debates do seem to promote steadfastness, as the disputants are not
called on to conciliate purely because they confront a disagreeing peer. But
why? Third party judgments are even more problematic, for what epistemic
warrant is there for choosing between a disagreement of superiors? A common
explanation for Talmudic steadfastness is the notion ’elu w’elu divrey ’Elohim
kayim – both sides of Talmudic (or, more generally, halakhic) disputes have
‘heavenly’ legitimacy. But a closer look at this oft-quoted dictum and its
various interpretations does not, in fact, reveal such support for steadfastness.
Other explanations for Talmudic steadfastness are, therefore, required.