This brief annotated bibliography is intended to help students get started with their research. It is not a substitute for personal investigation of the literature, and it is not a comprehensive bibliography on the subject. For those just beginning to study Bayesian reasoning, I suggest the starred items as good places to start your reading.
On a subject that hath been so often treated, ’tis impossible to avoid saying many things which have been said before. It may, however, with reason be affirmed, that there still remains, on this subject, great scope for new observations. Besides, it ought to be remember’d, that the evidence of any complex argument depends very much on the order into which the material circumstances are digested, and the manner in which they are display’d.
This brief annotated bibliography is intended to help students get started with their research. It is not a substitute for personal investigation of the literature, and it is not a comprehensive bibliography on the subject. For those just beginning to study probabilistic confirmation theory and Bayesian reasoning, I suggest the starred items as good places to start your reading.
Arguments in natural theology have recently increased in their number and level of sophistication. However, there has not been much analysis of the ways in which these arguments should be evaluated as good, taken collectively or individually. After providing an overview of some proposed goals and good-making criteria for arguments in natural theology, we provide an analysis that stands as a corrective to some of the ill-formed standards that are currently in circulation. Specifically, our analysis focuses on the relation between (...) the veracity of the premises and their relation to the conclusion of an argument. In addition to providing a clearer account of what makes an argument good, an upshot of our account is that there remain positive contributions for "weak" arguments, especially within cumulative case arguments in ramified natural theology. (shrink)
The argument from silence is a pattern of reasoning in which the failure of a known source to mention a particular fact or event is used as the ground of an inference, usually to the conclusion that the supposed fact is untrue or the supposed event did not actually happen. Such arguments are widely used in historical work, but they are also widely contested. This paper surveys some inadequate attempts to model this sort of argument, offers a new analysis using (...) a Bayesian probabilistic framework that isolates the most problematic step in such arguments, illustrates a key problem besetting many uses of the argument, diagnoses the attraction of the argument in terms of a known human cognitive bias affecting the critical step, and suggests a standard that must be met in order for any argument from silence to have more than a very weak influence on historical reasoning. (shrink)
The formal representation of the strength of witness testimony has been historically tied to a formula — proposed by Condorcet — that uses a factor representing the reliability of an individual witness. This approach encourages a false dilemma between hyper-scepticism about testimony, especially to extraordinary events such as miracles, and an overly sanguine estimate of reliability based on insufficiently detailed evidence. Because Condorcet’s formula does not have the resources for representing numerous epistemically relevant details in the unique situation in which (...) testimony is given, many late 19th century thinkers like Venn turned away from the probabilistic analysis of testimony altogether. But a more nuanced approach using Bayes factors provides a better, more flexible, formalism for representing the evidential force of testimony. (shrink)
The phenomenon of mutual support presents a specific challenge to the foundationalist epistemologist: Is it possible to model mutual support accurately without using circles of evidential support? We argue that the appearance of loops of support arises from a failure to distinguish different synchronic lines of evidential force. The ban on loops should be clarified to exclude loops within any such line, and basing should be understood as taking place within lines of evidence. Uncertain propositions involved in mutual support relations (...) are conduits to each other of independent evidence originating ultimately in the foundations. We examine several putative examples of benign loops of support and show that, given the distinctions noted, they can be accurately modeled in a foundationalist fashion. We define an evidential “tangle,” a relation among three propositions that appears to require a loop for modeling, and prove that all such tangles are trivial in a sense that precludes modeling them with an evidential circle. (shrink)
Internalism and Epistemology is a powerful articulation and defense of a classical answer to an enduring question: What is the nature of rational belief? In opposition to prevailing philosophical fashion, the book argues that epistemic externalism leads, not just to skepticism, but to epistemic nihilism - the denial of the very possibility of justification. And it defends a subtle and sophisticated internalism against criticisms that have widely but mistakenly been thought to be decisive. Beginning with an internalist response to the (...) Gettier problem, the authors deal with the problem of the connection to truth, stressing the distinction between success and rationality as critical to its resolution. They develop a metaregress argument against externalism that has devastating consequences for any view according to which epistemic principles are contingent. The same argument does not, they argue, affect the version of internalism they espouse, since its epistemic principles are analytic and knowable a priori. The final chapter addresses the problem of induction and shows that its solution turns critically on the distinction between success and rationality - the very distinction that lies at the heart of the dispute between internalists and externalists. Provocative, probing, and deliberately unfashionable, Internalism and Epistemology is a ringing defense of internalism that will interest specialists and students alike. It is essential reading for anyone who suspects that rumors of the death of traditional epistemology have been greatly exaggerated. (shrink)
Recent work on inference to the best explanation has come to an impasse regarding the proper way to coordinate the theoretical virtues in explanatory inference with probabilistic confirmation theory, and in particular with aspects of Bayes's Theorem. I argue that the theoretical virtues are best conceived heuristically and that such a conception gives us the resources to explicate the virtues in terms of ceteris paribus theorems. Contrary to some Bayesians, this is not equivalent to identifying the virtues with likelihoods or (...) priors per se; the virtues may be more accessible epistemically than likelihoods or priors. I then prove a ceteris paribus theorem regarding theoretical consilience, use it to correct a recent application of Reichenbach's common cause principle, and apply it to a test case of scientific reasoning. Explanation and confirmation The heuristic conception of theoretical virtues Abduction and the accessibility of explanatory power Evidential and theoretical consilience A test case: gravitational lensing Conclusion Thus natural science appears completely to lose from sight the large and general questions; but all the more splendid is the success when, groping in the thicket of special questions, we suddenly find a small opening that allows a hitherto undreamt of outlook on the whole. (L. Boltzmann, Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems). (shrink)
Proponents of the Fine-Tuning Argument frequently assume that the narrowness of the life-friendly range of fundamental physical constants implies a low probability for the origin of the universe ‘by chance’. We cast this argument in a more rigorous form than is customary and conclude that the narrow intervals do not yield a probability at all because the resulting measure function is non-normalizable. We then consider various attempts to circumvent this problem and argue that they fail.
Proponents of the Fine-Tuning Argument frequently assume that the narrowness of the life-friendly range of fundamental physical constants implies a low probability for the origin of the universe 'by chance'. We cast this argument in a more rigorous form than is customary and conclude that the narrow intervals do not yield a probability at all because the resulting measure function is non-normalizable. We then consider various attempts to circumvent this problem and argue that they fail.
John Post has argued that the traditional regress argument against nonfoundational justificatory structures does not go through because it depends on the false assumption that “justifies” is in general transitive. But, says Post, many significant justificatory relations are not transitive. The authors counter that there is an evidential relation essential to all inferential justification, regardless of specific inference form or degree of carried-over justificatory force, which is in general transitive. They respond to attempted counterexamples to transitivity brought by Watkins and (...) Salmon as well as to Post’s, arguing that none of these counterexamples apply to the relation they are describing. Given the revived transitivity assumption using this relation, the regress argument does indeed demonstrate the need for foundational stopping points in inferential justification. (shrink)
On the “Russellian” solution to the Gettier problem, every Gettier case involves the implicit or explicit use of a false premise on the part of the subject. We distinguish between two senses of “justification” ---“legitimation” and “justification proper.” The former does not require true premises, but the latter does. We then argue that in Gettier cases the subject possesses “legitimation” but not “justification proper,” and we respond to many attempted counterexamples, including several variants of the Nogot scenario, a case involving (...) induction, and the case of the sight-seer and the barn. Finally, we show that, given our analysis, any challenge to a belief’s justification on the grounds that it might be “Gettierized” only requires an argument that one’s premises are themselves likely to be true, moving backwards along the object-Ievel regress. Hence, a move to externalism is neither useful nor necessary in response to the Gettier problem. (shrink)