An Accuracy Based Approach to Higher Order Evidence

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 96 (3):690-715 (2018)
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The aim of this paper is to apply the accuracy based approach to epistemology to the case of higher order evidence: evidence that bears on the rationality of one's beliefs. I proceed in two stages. First, I show that the accuracy based framework that is standardly used to motivate rational requirements supports steadfastness—a position according to which higher order evidence should have no impact on one's doxastic attitudes towards first order propositions. The argument for this will require a generalization of an important result by Greaves and Wallace for the claim that conditionalization maximizes expected accuracy. The generalization I provide will, among other things, allow us to apply the result to cases of self-locating evidence. In the second stage, I develop an alternative framework. Very roughly, what distinguishes the traditional approach from the alternative one is that, on the traditional picture, we're interested in evaluating the expected accuracy of conforming to an update procedure. On the alternative picture that I develop, instead of considering how good an update procedure is as a plan to conform to, we consider how good it is as a plan to make. I show how, given the use of strictly proper scoring rules, the alternative picture vindicates calibrationism: a view according to which higher order evidence should have a significant impact on our beliefs. I conclude with some thoughts about why higher order evidence poses a serious challenge for standard ways of thinking about rationality.

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Miriam Schoenfield
University of Texas at Austin


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