The gift of life argument, the claim that suicide is immoral because our lives are not ours to dispose of as we are their guardians or stewards, is a persistent theme in debates about the morality of suicide, assisted-suicide, and euthanasia. I argue that this argument suffers from a fatal internal incoherence. The gift can either be interpreted literally or analogically. If it is interpreted literally there are serious problems in understanding who receives the gift. If it is understood analogically (...) the question arises whether the gift is understood to be a finite or everlasting existence. If it is finite then it is hard to see how one can be punished for bringing that existence to an end for one will not be around to be punished. If the existence is infinite it is impossible to see how one can be punished for ending one’s life because one cannot end it. However, there is still ethical mileage to be gained from the description of life as a gift and in the concluding section I indicate one way in which this is so. (shrink)
This paper aims to contribute to our understanding of the notion of coherence by explicating in probabilistic terms, step by step, what seem to be our most basic intuitions about that notion, to wit, that coherence is a matter of hanging or fitting together, and that coherence is a matter of degree. A qualitative theory of coherence will serve as a stepping stone to formulate a set of quantitative measures of coherence, each of which seems to capture well the aforementioned (...) intuitions. Subsequently it will be argued that one of those measures does better than the others in light of some more specific intuitions about coherence. This measure will be defended against two seemingly obvious objections. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with formal solutions to the lottery paradox on which high probability defeasibly warrants acceptance. It considers some recently proposed solutions of this type and presents an argument showing that these solutions are trivial in that they boil down to the claim that perfect probability is sufficient for rational acceptability. The argument is then generalized, showing that a broad class of similar solutions faces the same problem. An argument against some formal solutions to the lottery paradox The (...) argument generalized Some variations Adding modalities Anticipated objections. (shrink)
There has been a probabilistic turn in contemporary cognitive science. Far and away, most of the work in this vein is Bayesian, at least in name. Coinciding with this development, philosophers have increasingly promoted Bayesianism as the best normative account of how humans ought to reason. In this paper, we make a push for exploring the probabilistic terrain outside of Bayesianism. Non-Bayesian, but still probabilistic, theories provide plausible competitors both to descriptive and normative Bayesian accounts. We argue for this general (...) idea via recent work on explanationist models of updating, which are fundamentally probabilistic but assign a substantial, non-Bayesian role to explanatory considerations. (shrink)
The conceptual spaces approach has recently emerged as a novel account of concepts. Its guiding idea is that concepts can be represented geometrically, by means of metrical spaces. While it is generally recognized that many of our concepts are vague, the question of how to model vagueness in the conceptual spaces approach has not been addressed so far, even though the answer is far from straightforward. The present paper aims to fill this lacuna.
According to what is now commonly referred to as “the Equation” in the literature on indicative conditionals, the probability of any indicative conditional equals the probability of its consequent of the conditional given the antecedent of the conditional. Philosophers widely agree in their assessment that the triviality arguments of Lewis and others have conclusively shown the Equation to be tenable only at the expense of the view that indicative conditionals express propositions. This study challenges the correctness of that assessment by (...) presenting data that cast doubt on an assumption underlying all triviality arguments. (shrink)
According to a much discussed argument, reliabilism is defective for making knowledge too easy to come by. In a recent paper, Weisberg aims to show that this argument relies on a type of reasoning that is rejectable on independent grounds. We argue that the blanket rejection that Weisberg recommends of this type of reasoning is both unwarranted and unwelcome. Drawing on an older discussion in the philosophy of science, we show that placing some relatively modest restrictions on the said type (...) of reasoning suffices to block the anti-reliabilist argument. (shrink)
It is known that evidential support, on the Bayesian definition of this notion, is intransitive. According to some, however, the Bayesian definition is too weak to be materially adequate. This paper investigates whether evidential support is transitive on some plausible probabilistic strengthening of that definition. It is shown that the answer is negative. In fact, it will appear that even under conditions under which the Bayesian notion of evidential support is transitive, the most plausible candidate strengthenings are not.
Bayesians have traditionally taken a dim view of the Inference to the Best Explanation, arguing that, if IBE is at variance with Bayes ' rule, then it runs afoul of the dynamic Dutch book argument. More recently, Bayes ' rule has been claimed to be superior on grounds of conduciveness to our epistemic goal. The present paper aims to show that neither of these arguments succeeds in undermining IBE.
Conditionals are sentences of the form 'If A, then B', and they play a central role in scientific, logical, and everyday reasoning. They have been in the philosophical limelight for centuries, and more recently, they have been receiving attention from psychologists, linguists, and computer scientists. In spite of this, many key questions concerning conditionals remain unanswered. While most of the work on conditionals has addressed semantical questions - questions about the truth conditions of conditionals - this book focuses on the (...) main epistemological questions that conditionals give rise to, such as: what are the probabilities of conditionals? When is a conditional acceptable or assertable? What do we learn when we receive new conditional information? In answering these questions, this book combines the formal tools of logic and probability theory with the experimental approach of cognitive psychology. It will be of interest to students and researchers in logic, epistemology, and psychology of reasoning. (shrink)
This article compares inference to the best explanation with Bayes’s rule in a social setting, specifically, in the context of a variant of the Hegselmann–Krause model in which agents not only update their belief states on the basis of evidence they receive directly from the world, but also take into account the belief states of their fellow agents. So far, the update rules mentioned have been studied only in an individualistic setting, and it is known that in such a setting (...) both have their strengths as well as their weaknesses. It is shown here that in a social setting, inference to the best explanation outperforms Bayes’s rule according to every desirable criterion. 1 What Is Inference to the Best Explanation?2 Judging the Rules—By Which Lights?3 From an Individualistic to a Social Perspective 3.1 The Hegselmann–Krause model 3.2 A probabilistic extension of the Hegselmann–Krause model 3.3 Simulations4 Results and Discussion5 Interpretation6 Conclusion. (shrink)
Various authors have recently argued that you cannot rationally stick to your belief in the face of known disagreement with an epistemic peer, that is, a person you take to have the same evidence and judgmental skills as you do. For, they claim, because there is but one rational response to any body of evidence, a disagreement with an epistemic peer indicates that at least one of you is not responding rationally to the evidence. Given that you take your peer (...) to have the same judgmental skills as you do, and thus regard her to be equally good at assessing the evidence as you are, you will have as much reason for thinking that it is you who is not responding rationally to the evidence as for thinking that it is her. You thus have reason for thinking that your belief on the disputed matter is not a rational response to the evidence. Hence, you cannot rationally stick to your belief. (shrink)
The Lottery Paradox and the Preface Paradox both involve the thesis that high probability is sufficient for rational acceptability. The standard solution to these paradoxes denies that rational acceptability is deductively closed. This solution has a number of untoward consequences. The present paper suggests that a better solution to the paradoxes is to replace the thesis that high probability suffices for rational acceptability with a somewhat stricter thesis. This avoids the untoward consequences of the standard solution. The new solution will (...) be defended against a seemingly obvious objection. 1 The paradoxes of rational acceptability 2 The standard solution 3 A new solution to the paradoxes 4 Basic assumptions 5 The new solution defended 6 Conclusion 7 Appendix. (shrink)
There is good reason to believe that, if it can be decided at all, the realism debate must be decided on a posteriori grounds. But at least prima facie the prospects for an a posteriori resolution of the debate seem bleak, given that realists and antirealists disagree over two of the most fundamental questions pertaining to any kind of empirical research, to wit, what the range of accessible evidence is and what the methodological status of explanatory considerations is. The present (...) paper aims to show that, while the difficulties that face an empirical approach to the realism debate are not to be discounted, they are not insurmountable either. Specifically, it presents a broadly Bayesian strategy for resolving the debate that is capable of solving those difficulties. The strategy crucially involves answers to the aforementioned questions that diverge from both the standard realist and the standard antirealist answers, but that should appear more natural and plausible than those to realists and antirealists alike. (shrink)
Many have the intuition that the right response to the Lottery Paradox is to deny that one can justifiably believe of even a single lottery ticket that it will lose. The paper shows that from any theory of justification that solves the paradox in accordance with this intuition, a theory not of that kind can be derived that also solves the paradox but is more conducive to our epistemic goal than the former. It is argued that currently there is no (...) valid reason not to give preference to the derived accounts over the accounts from which they come. (shrink)
Van Fraassen (1989) argues that Inference to the Best Explanation is incoherent in the sense that adopting it as a rule for belief change will make one susceptible to a dynamic Dutch book. The present paper argues against this. A strategy is described that allows us to infer to the best explanation free of charge.
According to Stalnaker’s Hypothesis, the probability of an indicative conditional, $\Pr(\varphi \rightarrow \psi),$ equals the probability of the consequent conditional on its antecedent, $\Pr(\psi | \varphi)$ . While the hypothesis is generally taken to have been conclusively refuted by Lewis’ and others’ triviality arguments, its descriptive adequacy has been confirmed in many experimental studies. In this paper, we consider some possible ways of resolving the apparent tension between the analytical and the empirical results relating to Stalnaker’s Hypothesis and we argue (...) that none offer a satisfactory resolution. (shrink)
There is widespread agreement that we cannot know of a lottery ticket we own that it is a loser prior to the drawing of the lottery. At the same time we appear to have knowledge of events that will occur only if our ticket is a loser. Supposing any plausible closure principle for knowledge, the foregoing seems to yield a paradox. Appealing to some broadly Gricean insights, the present paper argues that this paradox is apparent only.
If coherence is to have justificatory status, as some analytical philosophers think it has, it must be truth-conducive, if perhaps only under certain specific conditions. This paper is a critical discussion of some recent arguments that seek to show that under no reasonable conditions can coherence be truth-conducive. More specifically, it considers Bovens and Hartmann’s and Olsson’s “impossibility results,” which attempt to show that coherence cannot possibly be a truth-conducive property. We point to various ways in which the advocates of (...) a coherence theory of justification may attempt to divert the threat of these results. (shrink)
There is an ongoing controversy in philosophy about the connection between explanation and inference. According to Bayesians, explanatory considerations should be given weight in determining which inferences to make, if at all, only insofar as doing so is compatible with Strict Conditionalization. Explanationists, on the other hand, hold that explanatory considerations can be relevant to the question of how much confidence to invest in our hypotheses in ways which violate Strict Conditionalization. The controversy has focused on normative issues. This paper (...) investigates experimentally the descriptive question of whether judgments of the explanatory goodness of hypotheses do play a role when people revise their degrees of belief in those hypotheses upon the receipt of new evidence. We present the results of three experiments that together strongly support the predictive superiority of the explanationist position. (shrink)
It has seemed natural to model phenomena related to vagueness in terms of graded membership. However, so far no satisfactory answer has been given to the question of what graded membership is nor has any attempt been made to describe in detail a procedure for determining degrees of membership. We seek to remedy these lacunae by building on recent work on typicality and graded membership in cognitive science and combining some of the results obtained there with a version of the (...) conceptual spaces framework. (shrink)
Inference to the Best Explanation has become the subject of a livelydebate in the philosophy of science. Scientific realists maintain, while scientificantirealists deny, that it is a compelling rule of inference. It seems that anyattempt to settle this debate empirically must beg the question against theantirealist. The present paper argues that this impression is misleading. A methodis described that, by combining Glymour '' s theory of bootstrapping and Hacking '' sarguments from microscopy, allows us to test IBE without begging any (...) antirealistissues. (shrink)
Adams famously suggested that the acceptability of any indicative conditional whose antecedent and consequent are both factive sentences amounts to the subjective conditional probability of the consequent given the antecedent. The received view has it that this thesis offers an adequate partial explication of Ramsey’s test, which characterizes graded acceptability for conditionals in terms of hypothetical updates on the antecedent. Some results in van Fraassen may raise hope that this explicatory approach to Ramsey’s test is extendible to left-nested conditionals, that (...) is, conditionals whose antecedent is itself conditional in form. We argue that this interpretation of van Fraassen’s results is to be rejected. Specifically, we provide an argument from material inadequacy against a generalization of Adams’ thesis for left-nested conditionals. (shrink)
List and Pettit have stated an impossibility theorem about the aggregation of individual opinion states. Building on recent work on the lottery paradox, this paper offers a variation on that result. The present result places different constraints on the voting agenda and the domain of profiles, but it covers a larger class of voting rules, which need not satisfy the proposition-wise independence of votes.
This position paper advocates combining formal epistemology and the new paradigm psychology of reasoning in the studies of conditionals and reasoning with uncertainty. The new paradigm psychology of reasoning is characterized by the use of probability theory as a rationality framework instead of classical logic, used by more traditional approaches to the psychology of reasoning. This paper presents a new interdisciplinary research program which involves both formal and experimental work. To illustrate the program, the paper discusses recent work on the (...) paradoxes of the material conditional, nonmonotonic reasoning, and Adams’ Thesis. It also identifies the issue of updating on conditionals as an area which seems to call for a combined formal and empirical approach. (shrink)
According to so-called epistemic theories of conditionals, the assertability/acceptability/acceptance of a conditional requires the existence of an epistemically significant relation between the conditional’s antecedent and its consequent. This paper points to some linguistic data that our current best theories of the foregoing type appear unable to explain. Further, it presents a new theory of the same type that does not have that shortcoming. The theory is then defended against some seemingly obvious objections.
This paper argues that pragmatic considerations similar to the ones that Grice has shown pertain to assertability pertain to acceptability. It further shows how this should affect some widely held epistemic principles. The idea of a pragmatics of belief is defended against some seemingly obvious objections.
It is widely believed that the so-called knowledge account of assertion best explains why sentences such as “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t believe it” and “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t know it” appear odd to us. I argue that the rival rational credibility account of assertion explains that fact just as well. I do so by providing a broadly Bayesian analysis of the said type of sentences which shows that such sentences cannot express rationally held beliefs. (...) As an interesting aside, it will be seen that these sentences also harbor a lesson for Bayesian epistemology itself. (shrink)
The Preface Paradox has led many philosophers to believe that, if it isassumed that high probability is necessary for rational acceptability, the principleaccording to which rational acceptability is closed under conjunction (CP)must be abandoned. In this paper we argue that the paradox is far less damaging to CP than is generally believed. We describe how, given certain plausibleassumptions, in a large class of cases in which CP seems to lead tocontradiction, it does not do so after all. A restricted version (...) of CP canthus be maintained. (shrink)
It has been claimed that epistemic peers, upon discovering that they disagree on some issue, should give up their opposing views and ‘split the difference’. The present paper challenges this claim by showing, with the help of computer simulations, that what the rational response to the discovery of peer disagreement is—whether it is sticking to one’s belief or splitting the difference—depends on factors that are contingent and highly context-sensitive.Keywords: Peer disagreement; Computer simulations; Opinion dynamics; Hegselmann–Krause model; Social epistemology.
In this article, we reflect on the use of formal methods in the philosophy of science. These are taken to comprise not just methods from logic broadly conceived, but also from other formal disciplines such as probability theory, game theory, and graph theory. We explain how formal modelling in the philosophy of science can shed light on difficult problems in this domain.
The idea that knowledge is conceptually related to practical reasoning is becoming increasingly popular. In defending this idea, philosophers have been relying on a conception of practical reasoning that drastically deviates from one which has been more traditionally advocated in analytic philosophy and which assigns no special role to knowledge. This paper argues that these philosophers have failed to give good reasons for thinking that the conception of practical reasoning they have been assuming is the right one, and that hence (...) they have been rash to conclude that there is a conceptual relation between knowledge and practical reasoning. (shrink)
According to the Principle of Conditional Non-Contradiction (CNC), conditionals of the form “If p, q” and “If p, not q” cannot both be true, unless p is inconsistent. This principle is widely regarded as an adequacy constraint on any semantics that attributes truth conditions to conditionals. Gibbard has presented an example of a pair of conditionals that, in the context he describes, appear to violate CNC. He concluded from this that conditionals lack truth conditions. We argue that this conclusion is (...) rash by proposing a new diagnosis of what is going on in Gibbard’s argument. We also provide empirical evidence in support of our proposal. (shrink)
Kaufmann has recently argued that the thesis according to which the probability of an indicative conditional equals the conditional probability of the consequent given the antecedent under certain specifiable circumstances deviates from intuition. He presents a method for calculating the probability of a conditional that does seem to give the intuitively correct result under those circumstances. However, the present paper shows that Kaufmann’s method is inconsistent in that it may lead one to assign different probabilities to a single conditional at (...) the same time. (shrink)
Earman (1993) distinguishes three notions of empirical indistinguishability and offers a rigorous framework to investigate how each of these notions relates to the problem of underdetermination of theory choice. He uses some of the results obtained in this framework to argue for a version of scientific anti- realism. In the present paper we first criticize Earman's arguments for that position. Secondly, we propose and motivate a modification of Earman's framework and establish several results concerning some of the notions of indistinguishability (...) in this modified framework. Finally, we interpret these results in the light of the realism/anti- realism debate. (shrink)
The standard approach to the so-called paradoxes of identity has been to argue that these paradoxes do not essentially concern the notion of identity but rather betray misconceptions on our part regarding other metaphysical notions, like that of an object or a property. This paper proposes a different approach by pointing to an ambiguity in the identity predicate and arguing that the concept of identity that figures in many ordinary identity claims, including those that appear in the paradoxes, is not (...) the traditional philosophical concept but one that can be defined in terms of relevant similarity. This approach to the paradoxes will be argued to be superior to the standard one. (shrink)
Psillos has recently argued that van Fraassen’s arguments against abduction fail. Moreover, he claimed that, if successful, these arguments would equally undermine van Fraassen’s own constructive empiricism, for, Psillos thinks, it is only by appeal to abduction that constructive empiricism can be saved from issuing in a bald scepticism. We show that Psillos’ criticisms are misguided, and that they are mostly based on misinterpretations of van Fraassen’s arguments. Furthermore, we argue that Psillos’ arguments for his claim that constructive empiricism itself (...) needs abduction point up to his failure to recognize the importance of van Fraassen’s broader epistemology for constructive empiricism. Towards the end of our paper we discuss the suspected relationship between constructive empiricism and scepticism in the light of this broader epistemology, and from a somewhat more general perspective. (shrink)
Conditionals whose antecedent and consequent are not somehow internally connected tend to strike us as odd. The received doctrine is that this felt oddness is to be explained pragmatically. Exactly how the pragmatic explanation is supposed to go has remained elusive, however. This paper discusses recent philosophical and psychological work that attempts to account semantically for the apparent oddness of conditionals lacking an internal connection between their parts.
In recent years, various computational models have been developed for studying the dynamics of belief formation in a population of epistemically interacting agents that try to determine the numerical value of a given parameter. Whereas in those models, agents’ belief states consist of single numerical beliefs, the present paper describes a model that equips agents with richer belief states containing many beliefs that, moreover, are logically interconnected. Correspondingly, the truth the agents are after is a theory (a set of sentences (...) of a given language) rather than a numerical value. The agents epistemically interact with each other and also receive evidence in varying degrees of informativeness about the truth. We use computer simulations to study how fast and accurately such populations as wholes are able to approach the truth under differing combinations of settings of the key parameters of the model, such as the degree of informativeness of the evidence and the weight the agents give to the evidence. (shrink)
In a famous critique, Goodman dismissed similarity as a slippery and both philosophically and scientifically useless notion. We revisit his critique in the light of important recent work on similarity in psychology and cognitive science. Specifically, we use Tversky’s influential set-theoretic account of similarity as well as Gärdenfors’s more recent resuscitation of the geometrical account to show that, while Goodman’s critique contained valuable insights, it does not warrant a dismissal of similarity.
Glymour’s theory of bootstrap confirmation is a purely qualitative account of confirmation; it allows us to say that the evidence confirms a given theory, but not that it confirms the theory to a certain degree. The present paper extends Glymour’s theory to a quantitative account and investigates the resulting theory in some detail. It also considers the question how bootstrap confirmation relates to justification.
Putnam’s internal realism is aimed at reconciling realist and antirealist intuitions about truth and the nature of reality. A common complaint about internal realism is that it has never been stated with due precision. This paper attempts to render the position precise by drawing on the literature on conceptual spaces as well as on earlier work of the authors on the notion of identity.