The Stability Theory of Belief

Philosophical Review 123 (2):131-171 (2014)
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Abstract

This essay develops a joint theory of rational (all-or-nothing) belief and degrees of belief. The theory is based on three assumptions: the logical closure of rational belief; the axioms of probability for rational degrees of belief; and the so-called Lockean thesis, in which the concepts of rational belief and rational degree of belief figure simultaneously. In spite of what is commonly believed, this essay will show that this combination of principles is satisfiable (and indeed nontrivially so) and that the principles are jointly satisfied if and only if rational belief is equivalent to the assignment of a stably high rational degree of belief. Although the logical closure of belief and the Lockean thesis are attractive postulates in themselves, initially this may seem like a formal “curiosity”; however, as will be argued in the rest of the essay, a very reasonable theory of rational belief can be built around these principles that is not ad hoc and that has various philosophical features that are plausible independently. In particular, this essay shows that the theory allows for a solution to the Lottery Paradox, and it has nice applications to formal epistemology. The price that is to be paid for this theory is a strong dependency of belief on the context, where a context involves both the agent's degree of belief function and the partitioning or individuation of the underlying possibilities. But as this essay argues, that price seems to be affordable.

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Hannes Leitgeb
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

Citations of this work

Lockeans Maximize Expected Accuracy.Kevin Dorst - 2019 - Mind 128 (509):175-211.
Belief and Credence: Why the Attitude-Type Matters.Elizabeth Grace Jackson - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (9):2477-2496.
Between Probability and Certainty: What Justifies Belief.Martin Smith - 2016 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Thinking, Guessing, and Believing.Ben Holguin - 2022 - Philosophers' Imprint 22 (1):1-34.

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References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Knowledge and lotteries.John Hawthorne - 2004 - New York: Oxford University Press.
New work for a theory of universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
Elusive knowledge.David Lewis - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):549 – 567.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):278-279.

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