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The degree of epistemic justification and the conjunction fallacy
Synthese 184 (1):2948 (2012)
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Some series can go on indefinitely, others cannot, and epistemologists want to know in which class to place epistemic chains. Is it sensible or nonsensical to speak of a proposition or belief that is justified by another proposition or belief, ad infinitum? In large part the answer depends on what we mean by “justification.” Epistemologists have failed to find a definition on which everybody agrees, and some have even advised us to stop looking altogether. In spite of this, the present (...) 

According to a widespread but implicit thesis in Bayesian confirmation theory, two confirmation measures are considered equivalent if they are ordinally equivalent—call this the “ordinal equivalence thesis”. I argue that adopting OET has significant costs. First, adopting OET renders one incapable of determining whether a piece of evidence substantially favors one hypothesis over another. Second, OET must be rejected if merely ordinal conclusions are to be drawn from the expected value of a confirmation measure. Furthermore, several arguments and applications of (...) 

Philosophers of science have often favoured reductive approaches to howpossibly explanation. This article identifies three alternative conceptions making howpossibly explanation an interesting phenomenon in its own right. The first variety approaches “how possibly X?” by showing that X is not epistemically impossible. This can sometimes be achieved by removing misunderstandings concerning the implications of one’s current belief system but involves characteristically a modification of this belief system so that acceptance of X does not result in contradiction. The second variety offers (...) 

We propose a coherence account of the conjunction fallacy applicable to both of its two paradigms. We compare our account with a recent proposal by Tentori et al. : 235–255, 2013) that attempts to generalize earlier confirmation accounts. Their model works better than its predecessors in some respects, but it exhibits only a shallow form of generality and is unsatisfactory in other ways as well: it is strained, complex, and untestable as it stands. Our coherence account inherits the strength of (...) 

In Thinking and Acting John Pollock offers some criticisms of Bayesian epistemology, and he defends an alternative understanding of the role of probability in epistemology. Here, I defend the Bayesian against some of Pollock's criticisms, and I discuss a potential problem for Pollock's alternative account. 

In a famous experiment by Tversky and Kahneman (Psychol Rev 90:293–315, 1983), featuring Linda the bank teller, the participants assign a higher probability to a conjunction of propositions than to one of the conjuncts, thereby seemingly committing a probabilistic fallacy. In this paper, we discuss a slightly different example featuring someone named Walter, who also happens to work at a bank, and argue that, in this example, it is rational to assign a higher probability to the conjunction of suitably chosen (...) 

In this paper we show that the coherence measures of Olsson (J Philos 94:246–272, 2002), Shogenji (Log Anal 59:338–345, 1999), and Fitelson (Log Anal 63:194–199, 2003) satisfy the two most important adequacy requirements for the purpose of assessing theories. Following Hempel (Synthese 12:439–469, 1960), Levi (Gambling with truth, New York, A. A. Knopf, 1967), and recently Huber (Synthese 161:89–118, 2008) we require, as minimal or necessary conditions, that adequate assessment functions favor true theories over false theories and true and informative (...) 

The rise of experimental philosophy has placed metaphilosophical questions, particularly those concerning concepts, at the center of philosophical attention. Xphi offers empirically rigorous methods for identifying conceptual content, but what exactly it contributes towards evaluating conceptual content remains unclear. We show how xphi complements Rudolf Carnap’s underappreciated methodology for concept determination, explication. This clarifies and extends xphi’s positive philosophical import, and also exhibits explication’s broad appeal. But there is a potential problem: Carnap’s account of explication was limited to empirical and (...) 

Bayesianism provides a rich theoretical framework, which lends itself rather naturally to the explication of various “contrastive” and “noncontrastive” concepts. In this (brief) discussion, I will focus on issues involving “contrastivism”, as they arise in some of the recent philosophy of science, epistemology, and cognitive science literature surrounding Bayesian confirmation theory. 

This thesis is a collection of three selfcontained papers on related themes in the area of formal and social epistemology. The first paper explores the possibility of measuring the coherence of a set with multiplicative averaging. It has been pointed out that all the existing probabilistic measures of coherence are flawed for taking the relevance between a set of propositions as the primary factor which determines the coherence of the set. What I show in this paper is that a group (...) 

This paper takes issue with a recent proposal due to Shogenji (Synthese 184:29–48, 2012). In his paper, Shogenji introduces J, a normatively motivated formal measure of justification (and of confirmation), and then proceeds to recruit it descriptively in an explanation of the conjunction fallacy. We argue that this explanation is undermined by the fact that it cannot be extended in any natural way to the inverse conjunction fallacy, a more recently discovered, closely related fallacy. We point out that since the (...) 

The adjective ‘is justified’ has all the hallmarks of a gradable adjective. But the relationship between gradable uses and straightforward predications of the form ‘x is justified’ has been underexplored by epistemologists. In this paper we undertake to do some ground clearing as a prelude to better understanding this relationship. 

When it comes to epistemic normativity, should we take the good to be prior to the right? That is, should we ground facts about what we ought and ought not believe on a given occasion in facts about the value of being in certain cognitive states (such as, for example, the value of having true beliefs)? The overwhelming answer among contemporary epistemologists is “Yes, we should.” This essay argues to the contrary. Just as taking the good to be prior to (...) 

Changing weather conditions and barometer changes usually coincide. Accordingly, the propositions that my barometer falls and that the weather conditions deteriorate are quite coherent—especially under the assumption that there is a drop in atmospheric pressure. Nevertheless, scenarios like these involving common causes turn out to be highly problematic for a prominent class of probabilistic coherence measures, namely, those explicating coherence based on the idea of relevancesensitivity. In this article, we show that none of these measures accords with the intuition that (...) 

One approach to knowledge, termed the relevant alternatives theory, stipulates that a belief amounts to knowledge if one can eliminate all relevant alternatives to the belief in the epistemic situation. This paper uses causal graphical models to formalize the relevant alternatives approach to knowledge. On this theory, an epistemic situation is encoded through the causal relationships between propositions, which determine which alternatives are relevant and irrelevant. This formalization entails that statistical evidence is not sufficient for knowledge, provides a simple way (...) 

Confirmation of a hypothesis by evidence can be measured by one of the so far known incremental measures of confirmation. As we show, incremental measures can be formally defined as the measures of confirmation satisfying a certain small set of basic conditions. Moreover, several kinds of incremental measure may be characterized on the basis of appropriate structural properties. In particular, we focus on the socalled Matthew properties: we introduce a family of six Matthew properties including the reverse Matthew effect; we (...) 



So far no known measure of confirmation of a hypothesis by evidence has satisfied a minimal requirement concerning thresholds of acceptance. In contrast, Shogenji’s new measure of justification (Shogenji, Synthese, this number 2009) does the trick. As we show, it is ordinally equivalent to the most general measure which satisfies this requirement. We further demonstrate that this general measure resolves the problem of the irrelevant conjunction. Finally, we spell out some implications of the general measure for the Conjunction Effect; in (...) 

Human agents happen to judge that a conjunction of two terms is more probable than one of the terms, in contradiction with the rules of classical probabilities—this is the conjunction fallacy. One of the most discussed accounts of this fallacy is currently the quantumlike explanation, which relies on models exploiting the mathematics of quantum mechanics. The aim of this paper is to investigate the empirical adequacy of major quantumlike models which represent beliefs with quantum states. We first argue that they (...) 

Epistemic justification has been widely accepted as both a gradational and relational notion. Given those properties, a natural thought is to take degrees of epistemic justification to be probabilities. In this paper, we present a simple Bayesian framework for justification. In the first part, after putting the model in an evidentialist form, we distinguish different senses of “being evidence for” and “confirming”. Next, we argue that this conception should accommodate the two relevant kinds of qualitative confirmation or evidential support. In (...) 

It is well known that the probabilistic relation of confirmation is not transitive in that even if E confirms H1 and H1 confirms H2, E may not confirm H2. In this paper we distinguish four senses of confirmation and examine additional conditions under which confirmation in different senses becomes transitive. We conduct this examination both in the general case where H1 confirms H2 and in the special case where H1 also logically entails H2. Based on these analyses, we argue that (...) 

We show that as a chain of confirmation becomes longer, confirmation dwindles under screeningoff. For example, if E confirms H1, H1 confirms H2, and H1 screens off E from H2, then the degree to which E confirms H2 is less than the degree to which E confirms H1. Although there are many measures of confirmation, our result holds on any measure that satisfies the Weak Law of Likelihood. We apply our result to testimony cases, relate it to the DataProcessing Inequality (...) 

This paper develops axiomatic foundations for a probabilisticinterventionist theory of causal strength. Transferring methods from Bayesian confirmation theory, I proceed in three steps: I develop a framework for defining and comparing measures of causal strength; I argue that no single measure can satisfy all natural constraints; I prove two representation theorems for popular measures of causal strength: Pearl's causal effect measure and Eells' difference measure. In other words, I demonstrate these two measures can be derived from a set of plausible (...) 

This paper considers two novel Bayesian responses to a wellknown skeptical paradox. The paradox consists of three intuitions: first, given appropriate sense experience, we have justification for accepting the relevant proposition about the external world; second, we have justification for expanding the body of accepted propositions through known entailment; third, we do not have justification for accepting that we are not disembodied souls in an immaterial world deceived by an evil demon. The first response we consider rejects the third intuition (...) 



This essay addresses the methodology of philosophy of science and illustrates how formal and empirical methods can be fruitfully combined. Special emphasis is given to the application of experimental methods to confirmation theory and to recent work on the conjunction fallacy, a key topic in the rationality debate arising from research in cognitive psychology. Several other issue can be studied in this way. In the concluding section, a brief outline is provided of three further examples. 

There are numerous (Bayesian) confirmation measures in the literature. Festa provides a formal characterization of a certain class of such measures. He calls the members of this class “incremental measures”. Festa then introduces six rather interesting properties called “Matthew properties” and puts forward two theses, hereafter “T1” and “T2”, concerning which of the various extant incremental measures have which of the various Matthew properties. Festa’s discussion is potentially helpful with the problem of measure sensitivity. I argue, that, while Festa’s discussion (...) 

According to a widespread but implicit thesis in Bayesian confirmation theory, two confirmation measures are considered equivalent if they are ordinally equivalent—call this the “ordinal equivalence thesis”. I argue that adopting OET has significant costs. First, adopting OET renders one incapable of determining whether a piece of evidence substantially favors one hypothesis over another. Second, OET must be rejected if merely ordinal conclusions are to be drawn from the expected value of a confirmation measure. Furthermore, several arguments and applications of (...) 

According to infinitism, beliefs can be justified by an infinite chain of reasons. So far, infinitism has rarely been taken seriously and often even dismissed as inconsistent. However, Peijnenburg and Atkinson have recently argued that beliefs can indeed be justified by an infinite chain of reasons, if justification is understood probabilistically. In the following, I will discuss the formal result that has led to this conclusion. I will then introduce three probabilistic explications of justification and examine to which extent they (...) 

It is well known that the probabilistic relation of confirmation is not transitive in that even if E confirms H1 and H1 confirms H2, E may not confirm H2. In this paper we distinguish four senses of confirmation and examine additional conditions under which confirmation in different senses becomes transitive. We conduct this examination both in the general case where H1 confirms H2 and in the special case where H1 also logically entails H2. Based on these analyses, we argue that (...) 

This paper raises a principled objection against the idea that Bayesian confirmation theory can be used to explain the conjunction fallacy. The paper demonstrates that confirmationbased explanations are limited in scope and can only be applied to cases of the fallacy of a certain restricted kind. In particular; confirmationbased explanations cannot account for the inverse conjunction fallacy, a more recently discovered form of the conjunction fallacy. Once the problem has been set out, the paper explores four different ways for the (...) 

It is argued that the conjunction effect has a disjunctive analog of strong interest for the realism–antirealism debate. It is possible that a proper theory is more confirmed than its (more probable) observational subtheory and hence than the latter’s disjunctive equivalent, i.e., the disjunction of all proper theories that are empirically equivalent to the given one. This is illustrated by a toy model. 

En este escrito se presentan las bases de una estrategia pragmática, contextualista e inferencialista para articular una teoría que dé cuenta de los grados de justificación de nuestras aserciones. Se arguye que hay contextos de emisión de aserciones configurados con ciertos criterios inferenciales, los cuales responden a propósitos prácticos o teóricos, y conforman, en consecuencia, diferentes estándares de justificación en esos contextos. Finalmente, a partir de una caracterización de tipos de proposiciones, inferencias, compromisos asertivos y esquemas de justificación, se muestra (...) 



Over the years several nonequivalent probabilistic measures of coherence have been discussed in the philosophical literature. In this paper we examine these measures with respect to their empirical adequacy. Using test cases from the coherence literature as vignettes for psychological experiments we investigate whether the measures can predict the subjective coherence assessments of the participants. It turns out that the participants’ coherence assessments are best described by Roche’s coherence measure based on Douven and Meijs’ average mutual support approach and the (...) 

In “What price coherence?”, Klein and Warfield put forward a simple argument that triggered an extensive debate on the epistemic virtues of coherence. As is wellknown, this debate yielded farreaching impossibility results to the effect that coherence is not conducive to truth, even if construed in a ceteris paribus sense. A large part of the present paper is devoted to a reevaluation of these results. As is argued, all explications of truthconduciveness leave out an important aspect: while it might not (...) 



The proposition that Tweety is a bird coheres better with the proposition that Tweety has wings than with the proposition that Tweety cannot fly. This relationship of contrastive coherence is the focus of the present paper. Based on recent work in formal epistemology we consider various possibilities to model this relationship by means of probability theory. In a second step we consider different applications of these models. Among others, we offer a coherentist interpretation of the conjunction fallacy. 

How can we determine the adequacy of a probabilistic coherence measure? A widely accepted approach to this question besides formulating adequacy constraints is to employ paradigmatic test cases consisting of a scenario providing a joint probability distribution over some specified set of propositions coupled with a normative coherence assessment for this set. However, despite the popularity of the test case approach, a systematic evaluation of the proposed test cases is still missing. This paper’s aim is to change this. Using a (...) 