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Between Probability and Certainty: What Justifies Belief

Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK (2016)

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  1. Evidentialism.Giada Fratantonio - forthcoming - In Kurt Sylvan (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Epistemology, 3rd edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
    At the core of evidentialism lies a very plausible claim: rational thinkers follow their evidence. While this seems to be a very intuitive, almost trivial, claim, providing a full and complete evidentialist theory is complicated. In this entry, I begin with elucidating what kind of theory evidentialists aim to provide us with. I will show that, in order to provide a complete evidentialist theory, we have to provide a lot of details on what evidence is and how it relates to (...)
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  • The omniscient speaker puzzle.Aleksander Domoslawski - 2024 - Synthese 203 (65).
    The epistemicist theory aims to explain ignorance due to vagueness by semantic plasticity: the shiftiness of intensions across close possible worlds resulting from shiftiness in usage. This explanation is challenged by the Omniscient Speaker Puzzle (Sennet in Philos Stud 161(2):273–285, 2012). Suppose that an omniscient speaker, Barney, who knows all the facts about usage and how these facts determine the intensions of expressions, cooks up a scheme to stabilise the intension of a normally semantically plastic term like ‘rich’. It seems (...)
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  • In defence of object-given reasons.Michael Vollmer - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-27.
    One recurrent objection to the idea that the right kind of reasons for or against an attitude are object-given reasons for or against that attitude is that object-given reasons for or against belief and disbelief are incapable of explaining certain features of epistemic normativity. Prohibitive balancing, the behaviour of bare statistical evidence, information about future or easily available evidence, pragmatic and moral encroachment, as well as higher-order defeaters, are all said to be inexplicable in terms of those object-given reasons. In (...)
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  • Better virtuous than safe.Haicheng Zhao - 2019 - Synthese 198 (8):6969-6991.
    According to the safety principle, if one knows that p, then one’s belief in p could not easily have been false. In this paper, I pose a dilemma for safety theorists by asking the following question: In evaluating whether or not a belief is safe, must we only examine the error-possibilities of the same belief as formed in the actual world? If ‘yes’, safety meets a familiar objection regarding necessary truths and the objection also extends to contingent propositions. If ‘no’, (...)
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  • Knowledge, justification, and (a sort of) safe belief.Daniel Whiting - 2020 - Synthese 197 (8):3593-3609.
    An influential proposal is that knowledge involves safe belief. A belief is safe, in the relevant sense, just in case it is true in nearby metaphysically possible worlds. In this paper, I introduce a distinct but complementary notion of safety, understood in terms of epistemically possible worlds. The main aim, in doing so, is to add to the epistemologist’s tool-kit. To demonstrate the usefulness of the tool, I use it to advance and assess substantive proposals concerning knowledge and justification.
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  • A Causal Safety Criterion for Knowledge.Jonathan Vandenburgh - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    Safety purports to explain why cases of accidentally true belief are not knowledge, addressing Gettier cases and cases of belief based on statistical evidence. However, problems arise for using safety as a condition on knowledge: safety is not necessary for knowledge and cannot always explain the Gettier cases and cases of statistical evidence it is meant to address. In this paper, I argue for a new modal condition designed to capture the non-accidental relationship between facts and evidence required for knowledge: (...)
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  • Reasoning and Deducing.Markos Valaris - 2018 - Mind 128 (511):861-885.
    What exactly is reasoning? While debate on this question is ongoing, most philosophers seem to agree on at least the following: reasoning is a mental process operating on contents, which consists in adopting or revising some of your attitudes in light of others. In this paper, I argue that this characterisation is mistaken: there is no single mental phenomenon that satisfies both of these conditions. Instead, I characterise two distinct mental phenomena, which I call ‘deducing’, on the one hand, and (...)
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  • Knowledge Out of Control.Markos Valaris - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (3):733-753.
    According to a thesis famously associated with Anscombe'sIntention, knowledge is a necessary condition of intentional action: when acting intentionally, we know what we are doing. Call this the Agential Knowledge thesis. The Agential Knowledge thesis remains, of course, controversial. Furthermore, as even some of its proponents acknowledge, it can appear puzzling: Why should acting intentionally require knowing what you are doing? My aim in this paper is to propose an explanation and defence of the Agential Knowledge thesis, based on the (...)
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  • Does luck exclude knowledge or certainty?Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen - 2020 - Synthese 197 (6):2387-2397.
    A popular account of luck, with a firm basis in common sense, holds that a necessary condition for an event to be lucky, is that it was suitably improbable. It has recently been proposed that this improbability condition is best understood in epistemic terms. Two different versions of this proposal have been advanced. According to my own proposal :361–377, 2010), whether an event is lucky for some agent depends on whether the agent was in a position to know that the (...)
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  • The logic of epistemic justification.Martin Smith - 2018 - Synthese 195 (9):3857-3875.
    Theories of epistemic justification are commonly assessed by exploring their predictions about particular hypothetical cases – predictions as to whether justification is present or absent in this or that case. With a few exceptions, it is much less common for theories of epistemic justification to be assessed by exploring their predictions about logical principles. The exceptions are a handful of ‘closure’ principles, which have received a lot of attention, and which certain theories of justification are well known to invalidate. But (...)
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  • The Hardest Paradox for Closure.Martin Smith - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (4):2003-2028.
    According to the principle of Conjunction Closure, if one has justification for believing each of a set of propositions, one has justification for believing their conjunction. The lottery and preface paradoxes can both be seen as posing challenges for Closure, but leave open familiar strategies for preserving the principle. While this is all relatively well-trodden ground, a new Closure-challenging paradox has recently emerged, in two somewhat different forms, due to Backes :3773–3787, 2019a) and Praolini :715–726, 2019). This paradox synthesises elements (...)
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  • Two accounts of assertion.Martin Smith - 2022 - Synthese 200 (3):1-18.
    In this paper I will compare two competing accounts of assertion: the knowledge account and the justified belief account. When it comes to the evidence that is typically used to assess accounts of assertion – including the evidence from lottery propositions, the evidence from Moore’s paradoxical propositions and the evidence from conversational patterns – I will argue that the justified belief account has at least as much explanatory power as its rival. I will argue, finally, that a close look at (...)
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  • More on Normic Support and the Criminal Standard of Proof.Martin Smith - 2021 - Mind 130 (519):943-960.
    In this paper I respond to Marcello Di Bello’s criticisms of the ‘normic account’ of the criminal standard of proof. In so doing, I further elaborate on what the normic account predicts about certain significant legal categories of evidence, including DNA and fingerprint evidence and eyewitness identifications.
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  • Justification as Ignorance: An Essay in Epistemology, by Sven Rosenkranz. [REVIEW]Martin Smith - forthcoming - Mind.
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  • Intuitionistc probability and the Bayesian objection to dogmatism.Martin Smith - 2017 - Synthese 194 (10):3997-4009.
    Given a few assumptions, the probability of a conjunction is raised, and the probability of its negation is lowered, by conditionalising upon one of the conjuncts. This simple result appears to bring Bayesian confirmation theory into tension with the prominent dogmatist view of perceptual justification – a tension often portrayed as a kind of ‘Bayesian objection’ to dogmatism. In a recent paper, David Jehle and Brian Weatherson observe that, while this crucial result holds within classical probability theory, it fails within (...)
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  • Coin trials.Martin Smith - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (5):726-741.
    According to the JUSTIFIED FAIR COINS principle, if I know that a coin is fair, and I lack justification for believing that it won’t be flipped, then I lack justification for believing that it won’t land tails. What this principle says, in effect, is that the only way to have justification for believing that a fair coin won’t land tails, is by having justification for believing that it won’t be flipped at all. Although this seems a plausible and innocuous principle, (...)
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  • Self-Fulfilling Beliefs: A Defence.Paul Silva - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (4):1012-1018.
    ABSTRACT Self-fulfilling beliefs are, in at least some cases, a kind of belief that is rational to form and hold in the absence of evidence. The rationality of such beliefs have significant implications for a range of debates in epistemology. Most startlingly, it undermines the idea that having sufficient evidence for the truth of is necessary for it to be rational to believe that. The rationality of self-fulfilling beliefs is here defended against the idea that their rationality is incompatible with (...)
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  • Merely statistical evidence: when and why it justifies belief.Paul Silva - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (9):2639-2664.
    It is one thing to hold that merely statistical evidence is _sometimes_ insufficient for rational belief, as in typical lottery and profiling cases. It is another thing to hold that merely statistical evidence is _always_ insufficient for rational belief. Indeed, there are cases where statistical evidence plainly does justify belief. This project develops a dispositional account of the normativity of statistical evidence, where the dispositions that ground justifying statistical evidence are connected to the goals (= proper function) of objects. There (...)
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  • Strong knowledge, weak belief?Moritz Schulz - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):8741-8753.
    According to the knowledge norm of belief, one should believe p only if one knows p. However, it can easily seem that the ordinary notion of belief is much weaker than the knowledge norm would have it. It is possible to rationally believe things one knows to be unknown The aim of belief, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013). One response to this observation is to develop a technical notion of ‘outright’ belief. A challenge for this line of response is to (...)
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  • Facts about incoherence as non-evidential epistemic reasons.Eva Schmidt - 2023 - Asian Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):1-22.
    This paper presents a counterexample to the principle that all epistemic reasons for doxastic attitudes towards p are provided by evidence concerning p. I begin by motivating and clarifying the principle and the associated picture of epistemic reasons, including the notion of evidence concerning a proposition, which comprises both first- and second-order evidence. I then introduce the counterexample from incoherent doxastic attitudes by presenting three example cases. In each case, the fact that the subject’s doxastic attitudes are incoherent is an (...)
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  • Degrees of Doxastic Justification.Moritz Schulz - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (6):2943-2972.
    This paper studies degrees of doxastic justification. Dependency relations among different beliefs are represented in terms of causal models. Doxastic justification, on this picture, is taken to run causally downstream along appropriate causal chains. A theory is offered which accounts for the strength of a derivative belief in terms of (i) the strength of the beliefs on which it is based, and (ii) the epistemic quality of the belief-forming mechanisms involved. It is shown that the structure of degrees of justification (...)
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  • Indicatives at stake.Javier González de Prado Salas - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (7):755-778.
    ABSTRACTSeveral authors have claimed that indicative conditionals are sensitive to the epistemic perspective of agents. According to this sort of view, the truth of an indicative conditional depends on the background evidence of some relevant agent or group of agents. In this paper, I argue that the context-dependence of indicative conditionals goes beyond this. Indicative conditionals are not only sensitive to the evidence of agents, but also to contextual factors that determine what is inferable from such background evidence. More specifically, (...)
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  • At the threshold of knowledge.Daniel Rothschild & Levi Spectre - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (2):449-460.
    We explore consequences of the view that to know a proposition your rational credence in the proposition must exceed a certain threshold. In other words, to know something you must have evidence that makes rational a high credence in it. We relate such a threshold view to Dorr et al.’s :277–287, 2014) argument against the principle they call fair coins: “If you know a coin won’t land tails, then you know it won’t be flipped.” They argue for rejecting fair coins (...)
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  • Rehabilitating Statistical Evidence.Lewis Ross - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (1):3-23.
    Recently, the practice of deciding legal cases on purely statistical evidence has been widely criticised. Many feel uncomfortable with finding someone guilty on the basis of bare probabilities, even though the chance of error might be stupendously small. This is an important issue: with the rise of DNA profiling, courts are increasingly faced with purely statistical evidence. A prominent line of argument—endorsed by Blome-Tillmann 2017; Smith 2018; and Littlejohn 2018—rejects the use of such evidence by appealing to epistemic norms that (...)
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  • Legal proof and statistical conjunctions.Lewis D. Ross - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):2021-2041.
    A question, long discussed by legal scholars, has recently provoked a considerable amount of philosophical attention: ‘Is it ever appropriate to base a legal verdict on statistical evidence alone?’ Many philosophers who have considered this question reject legal reliance on bare statistics, even when the odds of error are extremely low. This paper develops a puzzle for the dominant theories concerning why we should eschew bare statistics. Namely, there seem to be compelling scenarios in which there are multiple sources of (...)
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  • Normative certitude for expressivists.Michael Ridge - 2020 - Synthese 197 (8):3325-3347.
    Quasi-realists aspire to accommodate core features of ordinary normative thought and discourse in an expressivist framework. One apparent such feature is that we can be more or less confident in our normative judgments—they vary in credence. Michael Smith has argued that quasi-realists cannot plausibly accommodate these distinctions simply because they understand normative judgments as desires, but desires lack the structure needed to distinguish these three features. Existing attempts to meet Smith’s challenge have accepted Smith’s presupposition that the way to meet (...)
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  • No Justificatory Closure without Truth.Francesco Praolini - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):715-726.
    It is well-known that versions of the lottery paradox and of the preface paradox show that the following three principles are jointly inconsistent: (Sufficiency) very probable propositions are justifiably believable; (Conjunction Closure) justified believability is closed under conjunction introduction; (No Contradictions) propositions known to be contradictory are not justifiably believable. This paper shows that there is a hybrid of the lottery and preface paradoxes that does not require Sufficiency to arise, but only Conjunction Closure and No Contradictions; and it argues (...)
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  • Counterfactuals, indeterminacy, and value: a puzzle.Eli Pitcovski & Andrew Peet - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-20.
    According to the Counterfactual Comparative Account of harm and benefit, an event is overall harmful for a subject to the extent that this subject would have been better off if it had not occurred. In this paper we present a challenge for the Counterfactual Comparative Account. We argue that if physical processes are chancy in the manner suggested by our best physical theories, then CCA faces a dilemma: If it is developed in line with the standard approach to counterfactuals, then (...)
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  • An Epistemic Puzzle About Knowledge and Rational Credence.Manuel Pérez Otero - 2019 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 32 (3-4):195-206.
    I present some puzzling cases regarding knowledge and its relation to rational credence. They seem to entail a failure of an apparently correct principle: if S knows P, then the epistemic justi...
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  • Epistemic anxiety and epistemic risk.Lilith Newton - 2022 - Synthese 200 (4):1-23.
    In this paper, I provide an account of epistemic anxiety as an emotional response to epistemic risk: the risk of believing in error. The motivation for this account is threefold. First, it makes epistemic anxiety a species of anxiety, thus rendering psychologically respectable a notion that has heretofore been taken seriously only by epistemologists. Second, it illuminates the relationship between anxiety and risk. It is standard in psychology to conceive of anxiety as a response to risk, but psychologists – very (...)
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  • The Explanationist and the Modalist.Dario Mortini - forthcoming - Episteme:1-16.
    Recent epistemology has witnessed a substantial opposition between two competing approaches to capturing the notion of non-accidentality in the analysis of knowledge: the explanationist and the modalist. According to the latest advocates of the former, S knows that p if and only if S believes that p because p is true. According to champions of the latter, S knows that p if and only if S's belief that p is true in a relevant set of possible worlds. Because Bogardus and (...)
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  • Knowledge, Individualised Evidence and Luck.Dario Mortini - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (12):3791-3815.
    The notion of individualised evidence holds the key to solve the puzzle of statistical evidence, but there’s still no consensus on how exactly to define it. To make progress on the problem, epistemologists have proposed various accounts of individualised evidence in terms of causal or modal anti-luck conditions on knowledge like appropriate causation, sensitivity and safety. In this paper, I show that each of these fails as satisfactory anti-luck condition, and that such failure lends abductive support to the following conclusion: (...)
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  • Etiological Proper Function and the Safety Condition.Dario Mortini - 2023 - Synthese 202 (6):1-22.
    In this paper, I develop and motivate a novel formulation of the safety condition in terms of etiological proper function. After testing this condition against the most pressing objections to safety-theoretic accounts of knowledge in the literature, my conclusion will be the following: once safety is suitably understood in terms of etiological proper function, it stands a better chance as the right anti-Gettier condition on knowledge.
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  • Assertion is weak.Matthew Mandelkern & Kevin Dorst - 2022 - Philosophers' Imprint 22.
    Recent work has argued that belief is weak: the level of rational credence required for belief is relatively low. That literature has contrasted belief with assertion, arguing that the latter requires an epistemic state much stronger than (weak) belief---perhaps knowledge or even certainty. We argue that this is wrong: assertion is just as weak as belief. We first present a variety of new arguments for this, and then show that the standard arguments for stronger norms are not convincing. Finally, we (...)
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  • Two-state solution to the lottery paradox.Arturs Logins - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (11):3465-3492.
    This paper elaborates a new solution to the lottery paradox, according to which the paradox arises only when we lump together two distinct states of being confident that p under one general label of ‘belief that p’. The two-state conjecture is defended on the basis of some recent work on gradable adjectives. The conjecture is supported by independent considerations from the impossibility of constructing the lottery paradox both for risk-tolerating states such as being afraid, hoping or hypothesizing, and for risk-averse, (...)
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  • Justification, knowledge, and normality.Clayton Littlejohn & Julien Dutant - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (6):1593-1609.
    There is much to like about the idea that justification should be understood in terms of normality or normic support (Smith 2016, Goodman and Salow 2018). The view does a nice job explaining why we should think that lottery beliefs differ in justificatory status from mundane perceptual or testimonial beliefs. And it seems to do that in a way that is friendly to a broadly internalist approach to justification. In spite of its attractions, we think that the normic support view (...)
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  • Even if it might not be true, evidence cannot be false.Clayton Littlejohn & Julien Dutant - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 179 (3):801-827.
    Wordly internalists claim that while internal duplicates always share the same evidence, our evidence includes non-trivial propositions about our environment. It follows that some evidence is false. Worldly internalism is thought to provide a more satisfying answer to scepticism than classical internalist views that deny that these propositions about our environment might belong to our evidence and to provide a generally more attractive account of rationality and reasons for belief. We argue that worldly internalism faces serious difficulties and that its (...)
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  • Do you see what I know? On reasons, perceptual evidence, and epistemic status.Clayton Littlejohn - 2020 - Philosophical Issues 30 (1):205-220.
    Our epistemology can shape the way we think about perception and experience. Speaking as an epistemologist, I should say that I don’t necessarily think that this is a good thing. If we think that we need perceptual evidence to have perceptual knowledge or perceptual justification, we will naturally feel some pressure to think of experience as a source of reasons or evidence. In trying to explain how experience can provide us with evidence, we run the risk of either adopting a (...)
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  • Eleven angry men.Clayton Littlejohn - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):227-239.
    While many of us would not want to abandon the requirement that a defendant can only be found guilty of a serious criminal offence by a unanimous jury, we should not expect epistemology to give us the resources we need for justifying this requirement. The doubts that might prevent jurors from reaching unanimity do not show that, say, the BARD standard has not been met. Even if it were true, as some have suggested, that rationality requires that a jury composed (...)
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  • Cut-off points for the rational believer.Lina Maria Lissia - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2):1-19.
    I show that the Lottery Paradox is just a version of the Sorites, and argue that this should modify our way of looking at the Paradox itself. In particular, I focus on what I call “the Cut-off Point Problem” and contend that this problem, well known by Sorites scholars, ought to play a key role in the debate on Kyburg’s puzzle. Very briefly, I show that, in the Lottery Paradox, the premises “ticket n°1 will lose”, “ticket n°2 will lose”… “ticket (...)
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  • The Lottery Paradox, the No-Justification Account, and Taiwan.Kok Yong Lee - 2023 - Episteme 20 (2):459-478.
    To resolve the lottery paradox, the “no-justification account” proposes that one is not justified in believing that one's lottery ticket is a loser. The no-justification account commits to what I call “the Harman-style skepticism”. In reply, proponents of the no-justification account typically downplay the Harman-style skepticism. In this paper, I argue that the no-justification reply to the Harman-style skepticism is untenable. Moreover, I argue that the no-justification account is epistemically ad hoc. My arguments are based on a rather surprising finding (...)
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  • Context-sensitivity and the Preface Paradox for credence.Dominik Kauss - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):7303-7320.
    It’s intuitively plausible to suppose that there are many things that we can be rationally certain of, at least in many contexts. The present paper argues that, given this principle of Abundancy, there is a Preface Paradox for credence. Section 1 gives a statement of the paradox, discusses its relation to its familiar counterpart for belief, and points out the congeniality between Abundancy and broadly contextualist trends in epistemology. This leads to the question whether considerations of context-sensitivity might lend themselves (...)
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  • Dependent philosophical majorities and the skeptical argument from disagreement.Rasmus Jaksland - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-24.
    According to the skeptical argument from disagreement, we are mandated to suspend judgement about a question if we discover that others disagree with us. Critics, however, have proposed that this skeptical argument fails if there are not equally many people on either side of the debate: numbers matter. The present paper explicates this as the argument that a group can be more likely to arrive at the correct view by majority rule than the members are on their own. Defenders of (...)
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  • The Relationship Between Belief and Credence.Elizabeth G. Jackson - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (6):1–13.
    Sometimes epistemologists theorize about belief, a tripartite attitude on which one can believe, withhold belief, or disbelieve a proposition. In other cases, epistemologists theorize about credence, a fine-grained attitude that represents one’s subjective probability or confidence level toward a proposition. How do these two attitudes relate to each other? This article explores the relationship between belief and credence in two categories: descriptive and normative. It then explains the broader significance of the belief-credence connection and concludes with general lessons from the (...)
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  • On the Independence of Belief and Credence.Elizabeth Jackson - 2022 - Philosophical Issues 32 (1):9-31.
    Much of the literature on the relationship between belief and credence has focused on the reduction question: that is, whether either belief or credence reduces to the other. This debate, while important, only scratches the surface of the belief-credence connection. Even on the anti-reductive dualist view, belief and credence could still be very tightly connected. Here, I explore questions about the belief-credence connection that go beyond reduction. This paper is dedicated to what I call the independence question: just how independent (...)
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  • Faithfully Taking Pascal’s Wager.Elizabeth Jackson - 2023 - The Monist 106 (1):35–45.
    I examine the relationship between taking Pascal’s wager, faith, and hope. First, I argue that many who take Pascal’s wager have genuine faith that God exists. The person of faith and the wagerer have several things in common, including a commitment to God and positive cognitive and conative attitudes toward God’s existence. If one’s credences in theism are too low to have faith, I argue that the wagerer can still hope that God exists, another commitment-justifying theological virtue. I conclude with (...)
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  • Epistemic Akrasia and Belief‐Credence Dualism.Elizabeth Jackson & Peter Tan - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (3):717–727.
    We call attention to certain cases of epistemic akrasia, arguing that they support belief-credence dualism. Belief-credence dualism is the view that belief and credence are irreducible, equally fundamental attitudes. Consider the case of an agent who believes p, has low credence in p, and thus believes that they shouldn’t believe p. We argue that dualists, as opposed to belief-firsters (who say credence reduces to belief) and credence-firsters (who say belief reduces to credence) can best explain features of akratic cases, including (...)
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  • Belief, Credence, and Evidence.Elizabeth Jackson - 2020 - Synthese 197 (11):5073-5092.
    I explore how rational belief and rational credence relate to evidence. I begin by looking at three cases where rational belief and credence seem to respond differently to evidence: cases of naked statistical evidence, lotteries, and hedged assertions. I consider an explanation for these cases, namely, that one ought not form beliefs on the basis of statistical evidence alone, and raise worries for this view. Then, I suggest another view that explains how belief and credence relate to evidence. My view (...)
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  • The paradigm response to skepticism.Daniel Immerman - 2022 - Synthese 200 (3):1-16.
    This paper introduces and defends the paradigm response to external world skepticism. To understand it, consider an analogy. One of the hallmarks of being a bird is an ability to fly. A penguin lacks this hallmark and thus fails to be a paradigm bird. Likewise, there are various hallmarks of knowledge. Some of your external world beliefs lack some of these hallmarks, and thus fail to be paradigm cases of knowledge. Just as the inability of penguins to fly doesn’t prevent (...)
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