Reflective Equilibrium Fleshed out - A Formal Account of the Method

Beisbart, Claus (17 January 2017). Reflective Equilibrium Fleshed out - A Formal Account of the Method (Unpublished). In: Forschungskolloquium Theoretische Philosophie. Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf. 17. Jan. 2017.

Reflective equilibrium (RE) is often taken to be the crucial method of normative ethics (J. Rawls), philosophy (D. Lewis) or understanding more generally (C. Elgin). Despite its apparent popularity, however, the method is only vaguely characterized, poorly developed and almost never applied to real-world problems in an open-minded spirit. The aim of this talk is to present a precise and formal model of the RE. The starting point is an informal characterization of what I take to be the key idea of RE, viz. an elaboration of one's commitments due to pressure from systematic principles. This idea then is spelled out in the framework of the Theory of Dialectical Structures, as developed by G. Betz. The commitments of an epistemic subject are described as a position in a dialectical structure; desiderata for the positions are postulated; and rules for changing the commitments expounded. Simple examples, in which the model is applied, display a number of features that are well-known from the literature about RE. The talks concludes by discussing the limitations of the model. It is based upon work done jointly with G. Betz and G. Brun.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy

UniBE Contributor:

Beisbart, Claus


100 Philosophy
100 Philosophy > 120 Epistemology




Claus Beisbart

Date Deposited:

04 Jun 2018 08:32

Last Modified:

04 Jun 2018 08:32


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