Accuracy-dominance and conditionalization

Philosophical Studies 178 (10):3217-3236 (2021)
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Epistemic decision theory produces arguments with both normative and mathematical premises. I begin by arguing that philosophers should care about whether the mathematical premises (1) are true, (2) are strong, and (3) admit simple proofs. I then discuss a theorem that Briggs and Pettigrew (2020) use as a premise in a novel accuracy-dominance argument for conditionalization. I argue that the theorem and its proof can be improved in a number of ways. First, I present a counterexample that shows that one of the theorem’s claims is false. As a result of this, Briggs and Pettigrew’s argument for conditionalization is unsound. I go on to explore how a sound accuracy-dominance argument for conditionalization might be recovered. In the course of doing this, I prove two new theorems that correct and strengthen the result reported by Briggs and Pettigrew. I show how my results can be combined with various normative premises to produce sound arguments for conditionalization. I also show that my results can be used to support normative conclusions that are stronger than the one that Briggs and Pettigrew’s argument supports. Finally, I show that Briggs and Pettigrew’s proofs can be simplified considerably.

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Michael Nielsen
University of Sydney


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