A nonpragmatic vindication of probabilism

Philosophy of Science 65 (4):575-603 (1998)

Abstract

The pragmatic character of the Dutch book argument makes it unsuitable as an "epistemic" justification for the fundamental probabilist dogma that rational partial beliefs must conform to the axioms of probability. To secure an appropriately epistemic justification for this conclusion, one must explain what it means for a system of partial beliefs to accurately represent the state of the world, and then show that partial beliefs that violate the laws of probability are invariably less accurate than they could be otherwise. The first task can be accomplished once we realize that the accuracy of systems of partial beliefs can be measured on a gradational scale that satisfies a small set of formal constraints, each of which has a sound epistemic motivation. When accuracy is measured in this way it can be shown that any system of degrees of belief that violates the axioms of probability can be replaced by an alternative system that obeys the axioms and yet is more accurate in every possible world. Since epistemically rational agents must strive to hold accurate beliefs, this establishes conformity with the axioms of probability as a norm of epistemic rationality whatever its prudential merits or defects might be

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James M. Joyce
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

References found in this work

The Possibility of Practical Reason.David Velleman - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57:321-332.
The Humean Theory of Motivation.Michael Smith - 1987 - Mind 96 (381):36-61.

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Citations of this work

Lockeans Maximize Expected Accuracy.Kevin Dorst - 2019 - Mind 128 (509):175-211.
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The Epistemic and the Zetetic.Jane Friedman - 2020 - Philosophical Review 129 (4):501-536.
The Aim of Belief.Ralph Wedgwood - 2002 - Philosophical Perspectives 16:267-97.

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