A Defense of the Principle of Indifference

Journal of Philosophical Logic 39 (6):655-678 (2010)
Greg Novack
Virginia Tech
The principle of indifference (hereafter ‘Poi’) says that if one has no more reason to believe A than B (and vice versa ), then one ought not to believe A more than B (nor vice versa ). Many think it’s demonstrably false despite its intuitive plausibility, because of a particular style of thought experiment that generates counterexamples. Roger White ( 2008 ) defends Poi by arguing that its antecedent is false in these thought experiments. Like White I believe Poi, but I find his defense unsatisfactory for two reasons: it appeals to false premises, and it saves Poi only at the expense of something that Poi’s believers likely find just as important. So in this essay I defend Poi by arguing that its antecedent does hold in the relevant thought experiments, and that the further propositions needed to reject Poi are false. I play only defense in this essay; I don’t argue that Poi is true (even though I think it is), but rather that one popular refutation is faulty. In showing this, I also note something that has to my knowledge gone unnoticed: given some innocuous-looking assumptions the denial of Poi is equivalent to a version of epistemic permissivism , and Poi itself is equivalent to a version of epistemic uniqueness
Keywords Principle of indifference  Belief  Evidence  Uniqueness  Permissivism
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DOI 10.1007/s10992-010-9147-1
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References found in this work BETA

Epistemic Permissiveness.Roger White - 2005 - Philosophical Perspectives 19 (1):445–459.
Ignorance and Indifference.John D. Norton - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (1):45-68.
Oxford Studies in Epistemology.Roger White - 2009 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Subjective Probability and its Dynamics.Alan Hajek & Julia Staffel - forthcoming - In Markus Knauff & Wolfgang Spohn (eds.), MIT Handbook of Rationality. MIT Press.

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