Interests, evidence and games

Episteme 15 (3):329-344 (2018)
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Pragmatic encroachment theories have a problem with evidence. On the one hand, the arguments that knowledge is interest-relative look like they will generalise to show that evidence too is interest-relative. On the other hand, our best story of how interests affect knowledge presupposes an interest-invariant notion of evidence. The aim of this paper is to sketch a theory of evidence that is interest-relative, but which allows that ‘best story’ to go through with minimal changes. The core idea is that the evidence someone has is just what evidence a radical interpreter says they have. And a radical interpreter is playing a kind of game with the person they are interpreting. The cases that pose problems for pragmatic encroachment theorists generate fascinating games between the interpreter and the interpretee. They are games with multiple equilibria. To resolve them we need to detour into the theory of equilibrium selection. I’ll argue that the theory we need is the theory of risk-dominant equilibria. That theory will tell us how the interpreter will play the game, which in turn will tell us what evidence the person has. The evidence will be interest-relative, because what the equilibrium of the game is will be interest-relative. But it will not undermine the story we tell about how interests usually affect knowledge.

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Brian Weatherson
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


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