Reliable credence and the foundations of statistics


If the goal of statistical analysis is to form justified credences based on data, then an account of the foundations of statistics should explain what makes credences justified. I present a new account called statistical reliabilism (SR), on which credences resulting from a statistical analysis are justified (relative to alternatives) when they are in a sense closest, on average, to the corresponding objective probabilities. This places (SR) in the same vein as recent work on the reliabilist justification of credences generally [Dunn, 2015, Tang, 2016, Pettigrew, 2018], but it has the advantage of being action-guiding in that knowledge of objective probabilities is not required to identify the best-justified available credences. The price is that justification is relativized to a specific class of candidate objective probabilities, and to a particular choice of reliability measure. On the other hand, I show that (SR) has welcome implications for frequentist-Bayesian reconciliation, including a clarification of the use of priors; complemen- tarity between probabilist and fallibilist [Gelman and Shalizi, 2013, Mayo, 2018] approaches towards statistical foundations; and the justification of credences outside of formal statistical settings. Regarding the latter, I demonstrate how the insights of statistics may be used to amend other reliabilist accounts so as to render them action-guiding. I close by discussing new possible research directions for epistemologists and statisticians (and other applied users of probability) raised by the (SR) framework.

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