Cartesian Knowledge and Confirmation

Journal of Philosophy 104 (6):269-289 (2007)
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Bayesian conceptions of evidence have been invoked in recent arguments regarding the existence of God, the hypothesis of multiple physical universes, and the Doomsday Argument. Philosophers writing on these topics often claim that, given a Bayesian account of evidence, our existence or something entailed by our existence (perhaps in conjunction with some background knowledge or assumption) may serve as evidence for each of us. In this paper, I argue that this widespread view is mistaken. The mere fact of one's existence qua conscious creature cannot serve as evidence on the standard Bayesian conception of evidence because knowledge of one's existence is a necessary part of the background knowledge relative to which all epistemic probabilities are defined. It follows that some formulations of the fine-tuning argument (for theism or a multiverse), the argument from consciousness (for theism) and a rejoinder to the Doomsday argument are mistaken.

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Joel Pust
University of Delaware


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