Isaac Levi's new book is concerned with how one can justify changing one's beliefs. The discussion is deeply informed by the belief-doubt model advocated by C. S. Peirce and John Dewey, of which the book provides a substantial analysis. Professor Levi then addresses the conceptual framework of potential changes available to an inquirer. A structural approach to propositional attitudes is proposed, which rejects the conventional view that a propositional attitude involves a relation between an agent and either a linguistic entity (...) or some other intentional object such as a proposition or set of possible worlds. The last two chapters offer an account of change in states of full belief understood as changes in commitments rather than changes in performance; one chapter deals with adding new information to a belief state, the other with giving up information. The book builds upon topics discussed in some of Levi's earlier work. It will be of particular interest to discussion theorists, epistemologists, philosophers of science, computer scientists, and cognitive psychologists. (shrink)
It is a commonplace that in making decisions agents often have to juggle competing values, and that no choice will maximise satisfaction of them all. However, the prevailing account of these cases assumes that there is always a single ranking of the agent's values, and therefore no unresolvable conflict between them. Isaac Levi denies this assumption, arguing that agents often must choose without having balanced their different values and that to be rational, an act does not have to be optimal, (...) only what Levi terms 'admissible'. This book explores the consequences of denying the assumption and develops a general approach to decision-making under unresolved conflict. Professor Levi discusses conflicts of value in several domains - those arising in moral dilemmas, the drawing of scientific inferences, decisions taken under uncertainty, and in social choice. In each of these he adapts his theoretical framework, showing how conflict may often be reduced though not always altogether eliminated. (shrink)
Isaac Levi's new book develops further his pioneering work in formal epistemology, focusing on the problem of belief contraction, or how rationally to relinquish old beliefs. Levi offers the most penetrating analysis to date of this key question in epistemology, offering a completely new solution and explaining its relation to his earlier proposals. He mounts an argument in favor of the thesis that contracting a state of belief by giving up specific beliefs is to be evaluated in terms of the (...) value of the information lost by doing so. The rationale aims to be thoroughly decision theoretic. Levi spells out his goals and shows that certain types of recommendations are obtained if one seeks to promote these goals. He compares his approach to his earlier account of inductive expansion. The recommendations are for "mild contractions." These are formally the same as the "severe withdrawals" considered by Pagnucco and Rott. The rationale, however, is different. A critical part of the book concerns the elaboration of these differences. The results are relevant to accounts of the conditions under which it is legitimate to cease believing and to accounts of conditionals. Mild Contraction will be of great interest to all specialists in belief revision theory and to many students of formal epistemology, philosophy of science, and pragmatism. (shrink)
This book by one of the world's foremost philosophers in the fields of epistemology and logic offers an account of suppositional reasoning relevant to practical deliberation, explanation, prediction and hypothesis testing. Suppositions made 'for the sake of argument' sometimes conflict with our beliefs, and when they do, some beliefs are rejected and others retained. Thanks to such belief contravention, adding content to a supposition can undermine conclusions reached without it. Subversion can also arise because suppositional reasoning is ampliative. These two (...) types of nonmonotonic logic are the focus of this book. A detailed comparison of nonmonotonicity appropriate to both belief contravening and ampliative suppositional reasoning reveals important differences that have been overlooked. (shrink)
Isaac Levi is one of the preeminent philosophers in the areas of pragmatic rationality and epistemology. This collection of essays constitutes an important presentation of his original and influential ideas about rational choice and belief. A wide range of topics is covered, including consequentialism and sequential choice, consensus, voluntarism of belief, and the tolerance of the opinions of others. The essays elaborate on the idea that principles of rationality are norms that regulate the coherence of our beliefs and values with (...) our rational choices. The norms impose minimal constraints on deliberation and inquiry, but they also impose demands well beyond the capacities of deliberating agents. This major collection will be eagerly sought out by a wide range of philosophers in epistemology, logic, and philosophy of science, as well as economists, decision theorists, and statisticians. (shrink)
Bayesians often confuse insistence that probability judgment ought to be indeterminate (which is incompatible with Bayesian ideals) with recognition of the presence of imprecision in the determination or measurement of personal probabilities (which is compatible with these ideals). The confusion is discussed and illustrated by remarks in a recent essay by R. C. Jeffrey.
In The Enterprise of Knowledge, I proposed a general theory of rational choice which I intended as a characterization of a prescriptive theory of ideal rationality. A cardinal tenet of this theory is that assessments of expected value or expected utility in the Bayesian sense may not be representable by a numerical indicator or indeed induce an ordering of feasible options in a context of deliberation. My reasons for taking this position are related to my commitment to the inquiry-oriented approach (...) to human knowledge and valuation favored by the American pragmatists, Charles Peirce and John Dewey. A feature of any acceptable view of inquiry ought to be that during an inquiry points under dispute ought to be kept in suspense pending resolution through inquiry. (shrink)
This paper seeks to defend the following conclusions: The program advanced by Carnap and other necessarians for probability logic has little to recommend it except for one important point. Credal probability judgments ought to be adapted to changes in evidence or states of full belief in a principled manner in conformity with the inquirer’s confirmational commitments—except when the inquirer has good reason to modify his or her confirmational commitment. Probability logic ought to spell out the constraints on rationally coherent confirmational (...) commitments. In the case where credal judgments are numerically determinate confirmational commitments correspond to Carnap’s credibility functions mathematically represented by so—called confirmation functions. Serious investigation of the conditions under which confirmational commitments should be changed ought to be a prime target for critical reflection. The necessarians were mistaken in thinking that confirmational commitments are immune to legitimate modification altogether. But their personalist or subjectivist critics went too far in suggesting that we might dispense with confirmational commitments. There is room for serious reflection on conditions under which changes in confirmational commitments may be brought under critical control. Undertaking such reflection need not become embroiled in the anti inductivism that has characterized the work of Popper, Carnap and Jeffrey and narrowed the focus of students of logical and methodological issues pertaining to inquiry. (shrink)
How to accept a conditional? F. P. Ramsey proposed the following test in (Ramsey 1990).(RT) If A, then B must be accepted with respect to the current epistemic state iff the minimal hypothetical change of it needed to accept A also requires accepting B.
Several authors have recently contended that modern statistical theory provides a powerful argument in favor of the view that if scientists accept or reject hypotheses at all they do so only in a behavioral sense--i.e., in a sense which reduces "accepting P" to "acting on the basis of P relative to an objective O". In this paper, the argument from statistics in favor of a behavioral view is outlined; an interpretation of two statistical procedures (Bayes method and signifigance testing) is (...) offered which does not entail a behavioral analysis of "accepting a hypothesis"; and the conclusion that non-behavioral analyses of belief are compatible with the application of current statistical theory in the sciences is tentatively advanced. (shrink)
We present a decision-theoretically motivated notion of contraction which, we claim, encodes the principles of minimal change and entrenchment. Contraction is seen as an operation whose goal is to minimize loses of informational value. The operation is also compatible with the principle that in contracting A one should preserve the sentences better entrenched than A (when the belief set contains A). Even when the principle of minimal change and the latter motivation for entrenchment figure prominently among the basic intuitions in (...) the works of, among others, Quine and Ullian (1978), Levi (1980, 1991), Harman (1988) and Gärdenfors (1988), formal accounts of belief change (AGM, KM – see Gärdenfors (1988); Katsuno and Mendelzon (1991)) have abandoned both principles (see Rott (2000)). We argue for the principles and we show how to construct a contraction operation, which obeys both. An axiom system is proposed. We also prove that the decision-theoretic notion of contraction can be completely characterized in terms of the given axioms. Proving this type of completeness result is a well-known open problem in the field, whose solution requires employing both decision-theoretical techniques and logical methods recently used in belief change. (shrink)
I respond to Erik Olsson's critique of my account of contraction from inconsistent belief states, by admitting that such contraction cannot be rationalized as a deliberate decision problem. It can, however, be rationalized as a routine designed prior to inadvertent expansion into inconsistency when the deliberating agent embraces a consistent point of view.
In “Truth and Probability” Ramsey claimed that the logic of consistency for probability is not a logic of truth. After supporting this claim, he proceeded to explore the possibilities for a logic of truth for probability. An examination of Ramsey's intent reveals that Ramsey was far from being an orthodox Bayesian when it comes to statistical reasoning. The relations between Ramsey's thought and the ideas of Keynes and Peirce are discussed.
Leeds (1990) levels an objection against the criterion of rational choice I have proposed (Levi 1997, Ch. 6; 1980; 1986), pointing out that the criterion is sensitive to the way possible consequences are partitioned. Seidenfeld, Kadane and Schervish (1989) call into question the defense of the cross product rule by appeal to Pareto Unanimity Principles that I had invoked in my 1986. I offer clarifications of my proposals showing that the difference between my views and those of my critics concerns (...) the extent to which full belief, probabilistic belief, and value judgment are separable. (shrink)
According to the approach made famous by Alchourrón, Gärdenfors and Makinson (1985), revision is a transformation K*h of a potential belief state K by adding h yielding another potential belief state.1 This AGM revision transformation is a composition of two other transformations: contraction and expansion. K*h = [K-~h]+h. This is the expansion by adding h of the contraction K-~h of K by removing ~h.
The idea that rational agents should have acyclic preferences and should obey conditionalization has been defended on the grounds that otherwise an agent is threatened with becoming a “money pump.” This essay argues that such arguments fail to prove their claims.
Corrigibilism without solidarity -- Inquiry, deliberation, and method -- Pragmatism and change of view -- Beware of syllogism : statistical reasoning and conjecturing according to Peirce -- Dewey's logic of inquiry -- Wayward naturalism : saving Dewey from himself -- Seeking truth -- The logic of consistency and the logic of truth -- Belief, doubt, and evidentialism -- Induction, abduction, and oracles -- Knowledge as true full belief.