Solving the tacking problem with contrast classes

The traditional Bayesian qualitative account of evidential support (TB) takes assertions of the form 'E evidentially supports H' to affirm the existence of a two-place relation of evidential support between E and H. The analysans given for this relation is $C(H,E) =_{def} Pr(H\arrowvertE) \models Pr(H)$ . Now it is well known that when a hypothesis H entails evidence E, not only is it the case that C(H,E), but it is also the case that C(H&X,E) for any arbitrary X. There is a widespread feeling that this is a problematic result for TB. Indeed, there are a number of cases in which many feel it is false to assert 'E evidentially supports H&X', despite H entailing E. This is known, by those who share that feeling, as the 'tacking problem' for Bayesian confirmation theory. After outlining a generalization of the problem, I argue that the Bayesian response has so far been unsatisfactory. I then argue the following: (i) There exists, either instead of, or in addition to, a two-place relation of confirmation, a three-place, 'contrastive' relation of confirmation, holding between an item of evidence E and two competing hypotheses H₁ and H₂. (ii) The correct analysans of the relation is a particular probabilistic inequality, abbreviated C(H₁, H₂, E). (iii) Those who take the putative counterexamples to TB discussed to indeed be counterexamples are interpreting the relevant utterances as implicitly contrastive, contrasting the relevant hypothesis H₁ with a particular competitor H₂. (iv) The probabilistic structure of these cases is such that ∼C(H₁, H₂, E). This solves my generalization of the tacking problem. I then conclude with some thoughts about the relationship between the traditional Bayesian account of evidential support and my proposed account of the three-place relation of confirmation
Keywords confirmation theory  tacking problem  contrastive Bayesianism  Law of Likelihood
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axm019
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