Beyond Deep Disagreement: Paralysis as a Kind of Argument Failure in Medicine
AbstractDeep disagreements are disagreements arising from incommensurable foundational premises. In ethics, moral values or principles constitute the foundational premises, and disagreements about them are a recognized cause of argument failure. This article proposes an additional cause of argument failure that I call paralysis. Paralysis takes place in decision-making contexts when interlocutors may agree about foundational moral values and principles, but cannot formulate arguments for decisions that are satisfactory even by their own lights. Thus, paralysis is a cause of argument failure distinct from deep disagreement. I first describe a biomedical case manifesting paralysis, where interlocutors attempted to construct arguments for the use of genetically-modified mosquitoes to address the problem of malaria in Africa. Using this scenario as an example, I identify the phenomenon of paralysis, articulate some of the causes of paralysis, and suggest the possibility of making rational progress when confronted with paralysis.
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