Why we can't agree

When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?”

-John Maynard Keynes

I was thinking about this post by Matthew on the matter of why there is so much disagreement in philosophy. I think part of the problem is that, as with many disciplines, there is constantly new information becoming available and new interpretations are being made of this ever-growing stack of information.

Matthew is utterly correct in asserting that there is an element of ego and rivalry in this process, but it isn’t all sound and fury signifying nothing. Here’s a quick example from the philosophy of history: Karl Marx took the same information that everyone else had as well as Hegel’s dialectic and created class-based view of history. Say what you will about Marx’ conclusions, the model he developed was new and it forced historians to re-examine all kinds of events (even if only to refute Marx). Marxism may have been discarded, but the idea of looking at economic and class systems as a component of history will continue.

We do not agree because we are constantly adding to our collective body of knowledge and we are simultaneously coming up with new interpretations. Progress makes agreement difficult. Convergence of opinion is only likely to occur in a completely sealed system of knowledge with no new ideas.