Diachronic and Interpersonal Coherence

In A. K. Flowerree & Baron Reed (eds.), Towards an Expansive Epistemology: Norms, Action, and the Social Sphere. Routledge (forthcoming)
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Bayesians standardly claim that there is rational pressure for agents’ credences to cohere across time because they face bad (epistemic or practical) consequences if they fail to diachronically cohere. But as David Christensen has pointed out, groups of individual agents also face bad consequences if they fail to interpersonally cohere, and there is no general rational pressure for one agent's credences to cohere with another’s. So it seems that standard Bayesian arguments may prove too much. Here, we agree with Christensen that there is no general rational pressure to diachronically cohere, but we argue that there are particular cases in which there is rational pressure to diachronically cohere, as well as particular cases in which interpersonal probabilistic coherence is rationally required. More generally, we suggest that Bayesian arguments for coherence apply whenever a collection (of agents or time slices) has a shared dimension of value and an ability to coordinate their actions in a range of cases relevant to that value. Typically, this shared value and ability to coordinate is very strong across the time slices of one human being, and very weak across different human beings, but there are special cases where these can switch—i.e., some groups of humans will have as much reason for their beliefs to cohere across a particular range of cases as the time slices of one human usually do, but some time slices of a human will have as much freedom to differ in their beliefs from the others as the members of a group usually do.

Author Profiles

Reuben Stern
Duke University
Kenny Easwaran
Texas A&M University


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