Generalized Immodesty Principles in Epistemic Utility Theory

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 10 (31):874–907 (2023)
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Epistemic rationality is typically taken to be immodest at least in this sense: a rational epistemic state should always take itself to be doing at least as well, epistemically and by its own light, than any alternative epistemic state. If epistemic states are probability functions and their alternatives are other probability functions defined over the same collection of proposition, we can capture the relevant sense of immodesty by claiming that epistemic utility functions are (strictly) proper. In this paper I examine what happens if we allow for the alternatives to an epistemic state to include probability functions with different domains. I first prove an impossibility result: on minimal assumptions, I show that there is no way of vindicating strong immodesty principles to the effect that any probability function should take itself to be doing at least as well than any alternative probability function, regardless of its domain. I then consider alternative, weaker generalizations of the traditional immodesty principle and prove some characterization results for some classes of epistemic utility functions satisfying each of the relevant principles.

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Alejandro Pérez Carballo
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


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