Justification, Normalcy and Evidential Probability

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NOTE: This paper is a reworking of some aspects of an earlier paper – ‘What else justification could be’ and also an early draft of chapter 2 of Between Probability and Certainty. I'm leaving it online as it has a couple of citations and there is some material here which didn't make it into the book (and which I may yet try to develop elsewhere). My concern in this paper is with a certain, pervasive picture of epistemic justification. On this picture, acquiring justification for believing something is essentially a matter of minimising one’s risk of error – so one is justified in believing something just in case it is sufficiently likely, given one’s evidence, to be true. This view is motivated by an admittedly natural thought: If we want to be fallibilists about justification then we shouldn’t demand that something be certain – that we completely eliminate error risk – before we can be justified in believing it. But if justification does not require the complete elimination of error risk, then what could it possibly require if not its minimisation? If justification does not require epistemic certainty then what could it possibly require if not epistemic likelihood? When all is said and done, I’m not sure that I can offer satisfactory answers to these questions – but I will attempt to trace out some possible answers here. The alternative picture that I’ll outline makes use of a notion of normalcy that I take to be irreducible to notions of statistical frequency or predominance.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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