The Arbitrariness of Belief

In Dylan Dodd & Elia Zardini (eds.), Contemporary Perspectives on Scepticism and Perceptual Justification. Oxford University Press (2014)
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In Knowledge and Lotteries, John Hawthorne offers a diagnosis of our unwillingness to believe, of a given lottery ticket, that it will lose a fair lottery – no matter how many tickets are involved. According to Hawthorne, it is natural to employ parity reasoning when thinking about lottery outcomes: Put roughly, to believe that a given ticket will lose, no matter how likely that is, is to make an arbitrary choice between alternatives that are perfectly balanced given one’s evidence. It’s natural to think that parity reasoning is only applicable to situations involving lotteries dice, spinners etc. – in short, situations in which we are reasoning about the outcomes of a putatively random process. As I shall argue in this paper, however, there are reasons for thinking that parity reasoning can be applied to any proposition that is less than certain given one’s evidence. To see this, we need only remind ourselves of a kind of argument employed by John Pollock and Keith Lehrer in the 1980s. If this argument works, then believing any uncertain proposition, no matter how likely it is, involves a (covert) arbitrary or capricious choice – an idea that contains an obvious sceptical threat.
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What Else Justification Could Be.Martin Smith - 2010 - Noûs 44 (1):10 - 31.

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