Coherence, Probability and Explanation

Erkenntnis 79 (4):821-828 (2014)
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Recently there have been several attempts in formal epistemology to develop an adequate probabilistic measure of coherence. There is much to recommend probabilistic measures of coherence. They are quantitative and render formally precise a notion—coherence—notorious for its elusiveness. Further, some of them do very well, intuitively, on a variety of test cases. Siebel, however, argues that there can be no adequate probabilistic measure of coherence. Take some set of propositions A, some probabilistic measure of coherence, and a probability distribution such that all the probabilities on which A’s degree of coherence depends (according to the measure in question) are defined. Then, the argument goes, the degree to which A is coherent depends solely on the details of the distribution in question and not at all on the explanatory relations, if any, standing between the propositions in A. This is problematic, the argument continues, because, first, explanation matters for coherence, and, second, explanation cannot be adequately captured solely in terms of probability. We argue that Siebel’s argument falls short
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