Can probability theory explain why closure is both intuitive and prone to counterexamples?

Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2145-2168 (2018)
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Epistemic closure under known implication is the principle that knowledge of "p" and knowledge of "p implies q", together, imply knowledge of "q". This principle is intuitive, yet several putative counterexamples have been formulated against it. This paper addresses the question, why is epistemic closure both intuitive and prone to counterexamples? In particular, the paper examines whether probability theory can offer an answer to this question based on four strategies. The first probability-based strategy rests on the accumulation of risks. The problem with this strategy is that risk accumulation cannot accommodate certain counterexamples to epistemic closure. The second strategy is based on the idea of evidential support, that is, a piece of evidence supports a proposition whenever it increases the probability of the proposition. This strategy makes progress and can accommodate certain putative counterexamples to closure. However, this strategy also gives rise to a number of counterintuitive results. Finally, there are two broadly probabilistic strategies, one based on the idea of resilient probability and the other on the idea of assumptions that are taken for granted. These strategies are promising but are prone to some of the shortcomings of the second strategy. All in all, I conclude that each strategy fails. Probability theory, then, is unlikely to offer the account we need.

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Marcello Di Bello
Arizona State University


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