The structure of epistemic probabilities

Philosophical Studies 177 (11):3213-3242 (2020)
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Abstract

The epistemic probability of A given B is the degree to which B evidentially supports A, or makes A plausible. This paper is a first step in answering the question of what determines the values of epistemic probabilities. I break this question into two parts: the structural question and the substantive question. Just as an object’s weight is determined by its mass and gravitational acceleration, some probabilities are determined by other, more basic ones. The structural question asks what probabilities are not determined in this way—these are the basic probabilities which determine values for all other probabilities. The substantive question asks how the values of these basic probabilities are determined. I defend an answer to the structural question on which basic probabilities are the probabilities of atomic propositions conditional on potential direct explanations. I defend this against the view, implicit in orthodox mathematical treatments of probability, that basic probabilities are the unconditional probabilities of complete worlds. I then apply my answer to the structural question to clear up common confusions in expositions of Bayesianism and shed light on the “problem of the priors.”

Author's Profile

Nevin Climenhaga
Australian Catholic University

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