dr. Christopher Bret Ranalli


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Personal profile


About my work:

I’m part of the project Knowledgeable Democracy: A Social-Epistemological Inquiry (PI: Prof Jeroen de Ridder). 

Democracies seem to be good at producing knowledge and other epistemic goods. However, phenomena such as deep disagreement and various social-cognitive shortcomings, such as confirmation bias, denialism, and groupthink, and indoctrination, among many others, look like obstacles to the ideal that democracies are good at producing knowledge and other epistemic goods. 


About my research:

I do research in epistemology and metaphysics, broadly construed. Recently, I have been interested in moral philosophy and value theory. I especially enjoy researching topics at the intersection of some of these areas, such as the nature of disagreement and the value of knowledge.

I’m currently researching two interrelated topics in political epistemology.

Obstacles to Reasonable Belief and Knowledge:

As polarized group’s understanding of climate-science increases, their concern for global climate-change surprisingly does not increase. Instead, groups which disagree become even more polarized (see Kahan et al. 2012). Empirical research is showing us that people’s perceptions of risk are a function of their values rather than of rational deliberative-processes (e.g., an individualist will tend to underestimate the riskiness of climate-change over a collectivist). If these empirical results are on the right track, they pose a prima facie challenge to the epistemic benefits of deliberation. For in a democratic society, political decisions should be, at least in a part, a function of the rational deliberations of the people such policy will effect. But if people are collectively irrational and subject to arational forces, it’s not clear that policy choice ought to be a function of their choices, since they can’t authentically engage in the rational deliberative process. And yet it's hard to why it should be a function of anyone else's choices either. And this raises question about how to align political authority with epistemic authority. 

Deep disagreement 

Deep disagreements seem to be those disagreements which commit the participants to disagreeing over many other issues. For example, the young earth creationist and their opponent will disagree not only about the age the age of the earth, but also a host of interconnected metaphysical and epistemological issues. With such systematic disagreement in play, it’s hard to see how such disagreements could be rationally resolvable—how they could appeal to reason which ought to move each other to agreement. And this poses a prima facie challenge to the epistemic ideals of democracy. For we think that policy choice should be, at least in part, a function of people's views after rational deliberation. But it seems like, for many issues, rational deliberation cannot settle the dispute. This raises serious questions about whether policy-choice in these areas could be a function of citizen’s rational deliberation if they couldn’t, even in principle, resolve their disagreements.

Ancillary activities

No ancillary activities

Ancillary activities are updated daily

Education/Academic qualification

Philosophy, PhD, University of Edinburgh

Philosophy, Bachelor, Virginia Commonwealth University


  • B Philosophy (General)
  • BJ Ethics
  • Epistemology
  • Social epistemology
  • Metaphysics
  • Theory of disagreement
  • Skepticism

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Christopher Bret Ranalli is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

epistemology Social Sciences
pessimism Social Sciences
commitment Social Sciences
optimism Social Sciences
Hinge Arts & Humanities
Epistemological Arts & Humanities
Epistemology Arts & Humanities
Disjunctivism Arts & Humanities

Research Output 2017 2018

Deep disagreement and hinge epistemology

Ranalli, C., 6 Oct 2018, In : Synthese. p. 1-33 33 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access

Epistemological Disjunctivism and Introspective Indiscriminability

Ranalli, C., 2018, In : Philosophia (United States). 2018, p. 1-23 23 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Philosophical Issues

What is Deep Disagreement?

Ranalli, C., 2018, In : Topoi. 1, 3, 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Principle Theories

Wittgenstein and Deep Disagreement

Ranalli, C., 2017, In : The Philosophers' Magazine. 79, p. 50-55

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlePopular

Ludwig Wittgenstein
World View