Good Guesses as Accuracy-Specificity Tradeoffs

Philosophical Studies (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Guessing is a familiar activity, one we engage in when we are uncertain of the answer to a question under discussion. It is also an activity that lends itself to normative evaluation: some guesses are better than others. The question that interests me here is what makes for a good guess. In recent work, Dorst and Mandelkern have argued that good guesses are distinguished from bad ones by how well they optimize a tradeoff between accuracy and specificity. Here, I argue that Dorst and Mandelkern’s implementation of this idea fails to satisfy some plausible constraints on good guesses, and I develop an alternative implementation that satisfies the relevant constraints. The result is a new account of good guesses which retains the positive aspects of Dorst and Mandelkern’s proposal, but without the drawbacks.

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Mattias Skipper
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

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