Explaining the limits of Olsson's impossibility result

Southern Journal of Philosophy 50 (1):136-150 (2012)
In his groundbreaking book, Against Coherence (2005), Erik Olsson presents an ingenious impossibility theorem that appears to show that there is no informative relationship between probabilistic measures of coherence and higher likelihood of truth. Although Olsson's result provides an important insight into probabilistic models of epistemological coherence, the scope of his negative result is more limited than generally appreciated. The key issue is the role conditional independence conditions play within the witness testimony model Olsson uses to establish his result. Olsson maintains that his witness model yields charitable ceteris paribus conditions for any theory of probabilistic coherence. Not so. In fact, Olsson's model, like Bayesian witness models in general, selects a peculiar class of models that are in no way representative of the range of options available to coherence theorists. Recent positive results suggest that there is a way to develop a formal theory of coherence after all. Further, although Bayesian witness models are not conducive to the truth, they are conducive to reliability
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DOI 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2011.00083.x
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Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour & Richard Scheines (1996). Causation, Prediction, and Search. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (1):113-123.

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Branden Fitelson (2002). Too Odd (Not) to Be True? A Reply to Olsson. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (4):539 - 563.

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