There Is No Pure Empirical Reasoning

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The justificatory force of empirical reasoning always depends upon the existence of some synthetic, a priori justification. The reasoner must begin with justified, substantive constraints on both the prior probability of the conclusion and certain conditional probabilities; otherwise, all possible degrees of belief in the conclusion are left open given the premises. Such constraints cannot in general be empirically justified, on pain of infinite regress. Nor does subjective Bayesianism offer a way out for the empiricist. Despite often-cited convergence theorems, subjective Bayesians cannot hold that any empirical hypothesis is ever objectively justified in the relevant sense. Rationalism is thus the only alternative to an implausible skepticism.
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Archival date: 2017-07-27
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