Synthese 190 (13):2573-2593 (2013)

Jesper Kallestrup
University of Edinburgh
Our main aim in this paper is to contribute towards a better understanding of the epistemology of absence-based inferences. Many absence-based inferences are classified as fallacies. There are exceptions, however. We investigate what features make absence-based inferences epistemically good or reliable. In Section 2 we present Sanford Goldberg’s account of the reliability of absence-based inference, introducing the central notion of epistemic coverage. In Section 3 we approach the idea of epistemic coverage through a comparison of alethic and evidential principles. The Equivalence Schema–a well-known alethic principle–says that it is true that $p$ if and only if $p$ . We take epistemic coverage to underwrite a suitably qualified evidential analogue of the Equivalence Schema: for a high proportion of values of $p$ , subject $S$ has evidence that $p$ due to her reliance on source $S^{*}$ if and only if $p$ . We show how this evidential version of the Equivalence Schema suffices for the reliability of certain absence-based inferences. Section 4 is dedicated to exploring consequences of the Evidential Equivalence Schema. The slogan ‘absence of evidence is evidence of absence’ has received a lot of bad press. More elaborately, what has received a lot of bad press is something like the following idea: absence of evidence sufficiently good to justify belief in $p$ is evidence sufficiently good to justify belief in $\sim p$ . A striking consequence of the Evidential Equivalence Schema is that absence of evidence sufficiently good to justify belief in p is evidence sufficiently good to justify belief in $\sim p$ . We establish this claim in Section 4 and show how this supports the reliability of an additional type of absence-based inference. Section 4 immediately raises the following question: how can we make philosophically good sense of the idea that absence of evidence is evidence of absence? We address this question in Section 5. Section 6 contains some summary remarks
Keywords Fallacy of ignorance  Epistemic coverage  Absence-based inference  Absence-based belief  Sanford Goldberg  Alethic principles  Evidential principles  Absence of evidence  Evidence of absence  Reliabilism
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-013-0255-7
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Introduction to Logic.Irving M. Copi - 1953 - Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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