Karl Popper (1902-1994) was one of the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century. He made significant contributions to debates concerning general scientific methodology and theory choice, the demarcation of science from non-science, the nature of probability and quantum mechanics, and the methodology of the social sciences. His work is notable for its wide influence both within the philosophy of science, within science itself, and within a broader social context. Popper’s early work attempts to solve the problem (...) of demarcation and offer a clear criterion that distinguishes scientific theories from metaphysical or mythological claims. Popper’s falsificationist methodology holds that scientific theories are characterized by entailing predictions that future observations might reveal to be false. When theories are falsified by such observations, scientists can respond by revising the theory, or by rejecting the theory in favor of a rival or by maintaining the theory as is and changing an auxiliary hypothesis. In either case, however, this process must aim at the production of new, falsifiable predictions. While Popper recognizes that scientists can and do hold onto theories in the face of failed predictions when there are no predictively superior rivals to turn to. He holds that scientific practice is characterized by its continual effort to test theories against experience and make revisions based on the outcomes of these tests. By contrast, theories that are permanently immunized from falsification by the introduction of untestable ad hoc hypotheses can no longer be classified as scientific. Among other things, Popper argues that his falsificationist proposal allows for a solution of the problem of induction, since inductive reasoning plays no role in his account of theory choice. Along with his general proposals regarding falsification and scientific methodology, Popper is notable for his work on probability and quantum mechanics and on the methodology of the social sciences. Popper defends a propensity theory of probability, according to which probabilities are interpreted as objective, mind-independent properties of experimental setups. Popper then uses this theory to provide a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics, though its applicability goes beyond this specific case. With respect to the social sciences, Popper argued against the historicist attempt to formulate universal laws covering the whole of human history and instead argued in favor of methodological individualism and situational logic. Table of Contents 1. Background 2. Falsification and the Criterion of Demarcation a. Popper on Physics and Psychoanalysis b. Auxiliary and Ad Hoc Hypotheses c. Basic Sentences and the Role of Convention d. Induction, Corroboration, and Verisimilitude 3. Criticisms of Falsificationism 4. Realism, Quantum Mechanics, and Probability 5. Methodology in the Social Sciences 6. Popper’s Legacy 7. References and Further Reading a. Primary Sources b. Secondary Sources -/- . (shrink)
Evolutionary theory (ET) is teeming with probabilities. Probabilities exist at all levels: the level of mutation, the level of microevolution, and the level of macroevolution. This uncontroversial claim raises a number of contentious issues. For example, is the evolutionary process (as opposed to the theory) indeterministic, or is it deterministic? Philosophers of biology have taken different sides on this issue. Millstein (1997) has argued that we are not currently able answer this question, and that even scientific realists ought to remain (...) agnostic concerning the determinism or indeterminism of evolutionary processes. If this argument is correct, it suggests that, whatever we take probabilities in ET to be, they must be consistent with either determinism or indeterminism. This raises some interesting philosophical questions: How should we understand the probabilities used in ET? In other words, what is meant by saying that a certain evolutionary change is more or less probable? Which interpretation of probability is the most appropriate for ET? I argue that the probabilities used in ET are objective in a realist sense, if not in an indeterministic sense. Furthermore, there are a number of interpretations of probability that are objective and would be consistent with ET under determinism or indeterminism. However, I argue that evolutionary probabilities are best understood as propensities of population-level kinds. (shrink)
This dissertation is a contribution to formal and computational philosophy. -/- In the first part, we show that by exploiting the parallels between large, yet finite lotteries on the one hand and countably infinite lotteries on the other, we gain insights in the foundations of probability theory as well as in epistemology. Case 1: Infinite lotteries. We discuss how the concept of a fair finite lottery can best be extended to denumerably infinite lotteries. The solution boils down to the (...) introduction of infinitesimal probability values, which can be achieved using non-standard analysis. Our solution can be generalized to uncountable sample spaces, giving rise to a Non-Archimedean Probability (NAP) theory. Case 2: Large but finite lotteries. We propose application of the language of relative analysis (a type of non-standard analysis) to formulate a new model for rational belief, called Stratified Belief. This contextualist model seems well-suited to deal with a concept of beliefs based on probabilities ‘sufficiently close to unity’. -/- The second part presents a case study in social epistemology. We model a group of agents who update their opinions by averaging the opinions of other agents. Our main goal is to calculate the probability for an agent to end up in an inconsistent belief state due to updating. To that end, an analytical expression is given and evaluated numerically, both exactly and using statistical sampling. The probability of ending up in an inconsistent belief state turns out to be always smaller than 2%. (shrink)
When probability discounting (or probability weighting), one multiplies the value of an outcome by one's subjective probability that the outcome will obtain in decision-making. The broader import of defending probability discounting is to help justify cost-benefit analyses in contexts such as climate change. This chapter defends probability discounting under risk both negatively, from arguments by Simon Caney (2008, 2009), and with a new positive argument. First, in responding to Caney, I argue that small costs and (...) benefits need to be evaluated, and that viewing practices at the social level is too coarse-grained. Second, I argue for probability discounting, using a distinction between causal responsibility and moral responsibility. Moral responsibility can be cashed out in terms of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness, while causal responsibility obtains in full for any effect which is part of a causal chain linked to one's act. With this distinction in hand, unlike causal responsibility, moral responsibility can be seen as coming in degrees. My argument is, given that we can limit our deliberation and consideration to that which we are morally responsible for and that our moral responsibility for outcomes is limited by our subjective probabilities, our subjective probabilities can ground probability discounting. (shrink)
We call something a paradox if it strikes us as peculiar in a certain way, if it strikes us as something that is not simply nonsense, and yet it poses some difficulty in seeing how it could make sense. When we examine paradoxes more closely, we find that for some the peculiarity is relieved and for others it intensifies. Some are peculiar because they jar with how we expect things to go, but the jarring is to do with imprecision and (...) misunderstandings in our thought, failures to appreciate the breadth of possibility consistent with our beliefs. Other paradoxes, however, pose deep problems. Closer examination does not explain them away. Instead, they challenge the coherence of certain conceptual resources and hence challenge the significance of beliefs which deploy those resources. I shall call the former kind weak paradoxes and the latter, strong paradoxes. Whether a particular paradox is weak or strong is sometimes a matter of controversy—sometimes it has been realised that what was thought strong is in fact weak, and vice versa,— but the distinction between the two kinds is generally thought to be worth drawing. In this Cchapter, I shall cover both weak and strong probabilistic paradoxes. (shrink)
A longstanding issue in attempts to understand the Everett (Many-Worlds) approach to quantum mechanics is the origin of the Born rule: why is the probability given by the square of the amplitude? Following Vaidman, we note that observers are in a position of self-locating uncertainty during the period between the branches of the wave function splitting via decoherence and the observer registering the outcome of the measurement. In this period it is tempting to regard each branch as equiprobable, but (...) we argue that the temptation should be resisted. Applying lessons from this analysis, we demonstrate (using methods similar to those of Zurek's envariance-based derivation) that the Born rule is the uniquely rational way of apportioning credence in Everettian quantum mechanics. In doing so, we rely on a single key principle: changes purely to the environment do not affect the probabilities one ought to assign to measurement outcomes in a local subsystem. We arrive at a method for assigning probabilities in cases that involve both classical and quantum self-locating uncertainty. This method provides unique answers to quantum Sleeping Beauty problems, as well as a well-defined procedure for calculating probabilities in quantum cosmological multiverses with multiple similar observers. (shrink)
In the following we will investigate whether von Mises’ frequency interpretation of probability can be modified to make it philosophically acceptable. We will reject certain elements of von Mises’ theory, but retain others. In the interpretation we propose we do not use von Mises’ often criticized ‘infinite collectives’ but we retain two essential claims of his interpretation, stating that probability can only be defined for events that can be repeated in similar conditions, and that exhibit frequency stabilization. The (...) central idea of the present article is that the mentioned ‘conditions’ should be well-defined and ‘partitioned’. More precisely, we will divide probabilistic systems into object, initializing, and probing subsystem, and show that such partitioning allows to solve problems. Moreover we will argue that a key idea of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics (the determinant role of the observing system) can be seen as deriving from an analytic definition of probability as frequency. Thus a secondary aim of the article is to illustrate the virtues of analytic definition of concepts, consisting of making explicit what is implicit. (shrink)
I argue that any broadly dispositional analysis of probability will either fail to give an adequate explication of probability, or else will fail to provide an explication that can be gainfully employed elsewhere (for instance, in empirical science or in the regulation of credence). The diversity and number of arguments suggests that there is little prospect of any successful analysis along these lines.
This paper argues for the importance of Chapter 33 of Book 2 of Locke's _Essay Concerning Human Understanding_ ("Of the Association of Ideas) both for Locke's own philosophy and for its subsequent reception by Hume. It is argued that in the 4th edition of the Essay of 1700, in which the chapter was added, Locke acknowledged that many beliefs, particularly in religion, are not voluntary and cannot be eradicated through reason and evidence. The author discusses the origins of the chapter (...) in Locke's own earlier writings on madness and in discussions of Enthusiasm in religion. While recognizing association of ideas as derived through custom and habit is the source of prejudice as Locke argued, Hume went on to show how it also is the basis for what Locke himself called "the highest degree of probability", namely "constant and never-failing Experience in like cases" and our belief in “steady and regular Causes.”. (shrink)
I introduce a formalization of probability which takes the concept of 'evidence' as primitive. In parallel to the intuitionistic conception of truth, in which 'proof' is primitive and an assertion A is judged to be true just in case there is a proof witnessing it, here 'evidence' is primitive and A is judged to be probable just in case there is evidence supporting it. I formalize this outlook by representing propositions as types in Martin-Lof type theory (MLTT) and defining (...) a 'probability type' on top of the existing machinery of MLTT, whose inhabitants represent pieces of evidence in favor of a proposition. One upshot of this approach is the potential for a mathematical formalism which treats 'conjectures' as mathematical objects in their own right. Other intuitive properties of evidence occur as theorems in this formalism. (shrink)
It is argued that two observers with the same information may rightly disagree about the probability of an event that they are both observing. This is a correct way of describing the view of a lottery outcome from the perspective of a winner and from the perspective of an observer not connected with the winner - the outcome is improbable for the winner and not improbable for the unconnected observer. This claim is both argued for and extended by developing (...) a case in which a probabilistic inference is supported for one observer and not for another, though they relevantly differ only in perspective, not in any information that they have. It is pointed out, finally, that all probabilities are in this way dependent on perspective. (shrink)
This book explores a question central to philosophy--namely, what does it take for a belief to be justified or rational? According to a widespread view, whether one has justification for believing a proposition is determined by how probable that proposition is, given one's evidence. In this book this view is rejected and replaced with another: in order for one to have justification for believing a proposition, one's evidence must normically support it--roughly, one's evidence must make the falsity of that proposition (...) abnormal in the sense of calling for special, independent explanation. This conception of justification bears upon a range of topics in epistemology and beyond. Ultimately, this way of looking at justification guides us to a new, unfamiliar picture of how we should respond to our evidence and manage our own fallibility. This picture is developed here. (shrink)
There is a trade-off between specificity and accuracy in existing models of belief. Descriptions of agents in the tripartite model, which recognizes only three doxastic attitudes—belief, disbelief, and suspension of judgment—are typically accurate, but not sufficiently specific. The orthodox Bayesian model, which requires real-valued credences, is perfectly specific, but often inaccurate: we often lack precise credences. I argue, first, that a popular attempt to fix the Bayesian model by using sets of functions is also inaccurate, since it requires us to (...) have interval-valued credences with perfectly precise endpoints. We can see this problem as analogous to the problem of higher order vagueness. Ultimately, I argue, the only way to avoid these problems is to endorse Insurmountable Unclassifiability. This principle has some surprising and radical consequences. For example, it entails that the trade-off between accuracy and specificity is in-principle unavoidable: sometimes it is simply impossible to characterize an agent’s doxastic state in a way that is both fully accurate and maximally specific. What we can do, however, is improve on both the tripartite and existing Bayesian models. I construct a new model of belief—the minimal model—that allows us to characterize agents with much greater specificity than the tripartite model, and yet which remains, unlike existing Bayesian models, perfectly accurate. (shrink)
This paper develops an information sensitive theory of the semantics and probability of conditionals and statements involving epistemic modals. The theory validates a number of principles linking probability and modality, including the principle that the probability of a conditional 'If A, then C' equals the probability of C, updated with A. The theory avoids so-called triviality results, which are standardly taken to show that principles of this sort cannot be validated. To achieve this, we deny that (...) rational agents update their credences via conditionalization. We offer a new rule of update, Hyperconditionalization, which agrees with Conditionalization whenever nonmodal statements are at stake, but differs for modal and conditional sentences. (shrink)
The article is a plea for ethicists to regard probability as one of their most important concerns. It outlines a series of topics of central importance in ethical theory in which probability is implicated, often in a surprisingly deep way, and lists a number of open problems. Topics covered include: interpretations of probability in ethical contexts; the evaluative and normative significance of risk or uncertainty; uses and abuses of expected utility theory; veils of ignorance; Harsanyi’s aggregation theorem; (...) population size problems; equality; fairness; giving priority to the worse off; continuity; incommensurability; nonexpected utility theory; evaluative measurement; aggregation; causal and evidential decision theory; act consequentialism; rule consequentialism; and deontology. (shrink)
The major competing statistical paradigms share a common remarkable but unremarked thread: in many of their inferential applications, different probability interpretations are combined. How this plays out in different theories of inference depends on the type of question asked. We distinguish four question types: confirmation, evidence, decision, and prediction. We show that Bayesian confirmation theory mixes what are intuitively “subjective” and “objective” interpretations of probability, whereas the likelihood-based account of evidence melds three conceptions of what constitutes an “objective” (...)probability. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Using “brute reason” I will show why there can be only one valid interpretation of probability. The valid interpretation turns out to be a further refinement of Popper’s Propensity interpretation of probability. Via some famous probability puzzles and new thought experiments I will show how all other interpretations of probability fail, in particular the Bayesian interpretations, while these puzzles do not present any difficulties for the interpretation proposed here. In addition, the new interpretation casts doubt on (...) some concepts often taken as basic and unproblematic, like rationality, utility and expectation. This in turn has implications for decision theory, economic theory and the philosophy of physics. (shrink)
Subjective probability plays an increasingly important role in many fields concerned with human cognition and behavior. Yet there have been significant criticisms of the idea that probabilities could actually be represented in the mind. This paper presents and elaborates a view of subjective probability as a kind of sampling propensity associated with internally represented generative models. The resulting view answers to some of the most well known criticisms of subjective probability, and is also supported by empirical work (...) in neuroscience and behavioral psychology. The repercussions of the view for how we conceive of many ordinary instances of subjective probability, and how it relates to more traditional conceptions of subjective probability, are discussed in some detail. (shrink)
Early work on the frequency theory of probability made extensive use of the notion of randomness, conceived of as a property possessed by disorderly collections of outcomes. Growing out of this work, a rich mathematical literature on algorithmic randomness and Kolmogorov complexity developed through the twentieth century, but largely lost contact with the philosophical literature on physical probability. The present chapter begins with a clarification of the notions of randomness and probability, conceiving of the former as a (...) property of a sequence of outcomes, and the latter as a property of the process generating those outcomes. A discussion follows of the nature and limits of the relationship between the two notions, with largely negative verdicts on the prospects for any reduction of one to the other, although the existence of an apparently random sequence of outcomes is good evidence for the involvement of a genuinely chancy process. (shrink)
If we add as an extra premise that the agent does know H, then it is possible for her to know E H, we get the conclusion that the agent does not really know H. But even without that closure premise, or something like it, the conclusion seems quite dramatic. One possible response to the argument, floated by both Descartes and Hume, is to accept the conclusion and embrace scepticism. We cannot know anything that goes beyond our evidence, so (...) we do not know very much at all. This is a remarkably sceptical conclusion, so we should resist it if at all possible. A more modern response, associated with externalists like John McDowell and Timothy Williamson, is to accept the conclusion but deny it is as sceptical as it first appears. The Humean argument, even if it works, only shows that our evidence and our knowledge are more closely linked than we might have thought. Perhaps that’s true because we have a lot of evidence, not because we have very little knowledge. There’s something right about this response I think. We have more evidence than Descartes or Hume thought we had. But I think we still need the idea of ampliative knowledge. It stretches the concept of evidence to breaking point to suggest that all of our knowledge, including knowledge about the future, is part of our evidence. So the conclusion really is unacceptable. Or, at least, I think we should try to see what an epistemology that rejects the conclusion looks like. (shrink)
Sometimes different partitions of the same space each seem to divide that space into propositions that call for equal epistemic treatment. Famously, equal treatment in the form of equal point-valued credence leads to incoherence. Some have argued that equal treatment in the form of equal interval-valued credence solves the puzzle. This paper shows that, once we rule out intervals with extreme endpoints, this proposal also leads to incoherence.
How were reliable predictions made before Pascal and Fermat's discovery of the mathematics of probability in 1654? What methods in law, science, commerce, philosophy, and logic helped us to get at the truth in cases where certainty was not attainable? The book examines how judges, witch inquisitors, and juries evaluated evidence; how scientists weighed reasons for and against scientific theories; and how merchants counted shipwrecks to determine insurance rates. Also included are the problem of induction before Hume, design arguments (...) for the existence of God, and theories on how to evaluate scientific and historical hypotheses. It is explained how Pascal and Fermat's work on chance arose out of legal thought on aleatory contracts. The book interprets pre-Pascalian unquantified probability in a generally objective Bayesian or logical probabilist sense. (shrink)
A probability distribution is regular if no possible event is assigned probability zero. While some hold that probabilities should always be regular, three counter-arguments have been posed based on examples where, if regularity holds, then perfectly similar events must have different probabilities. Howson (2017) and Benci et al. (2016) have raised technical objections to these symmetry arguments, but we see here that their objections fail. Howson says that Williamson’s (2007) “isomorphic” events are not in fact isomorphic, but Howson (...) is speaking of set-theoretic representations of events in a probability model. While those sets are not isomorphic, Williamson’s physical events are, in the relevant sense. Benci et al. claim that all three arguments rest on a conflation of different models, but they do not. They are founded on the premise that similar events should have the same probability in the same model, or in one case, on the assumption that a single rotation-invariant distribution is possible. Having failed to refute the symmetry arguments on such technical grounds, one could deny their implicit premises, which is a heavy cost, or adopt varying degrees of instrumentalism or pluralism about regularity, but that would not serve the project of accurately modelling chances. (shrink)
A common objection to probabilistic theories of causation is that there are prima facie causes that lower the probability of their effects. Among the many replies to this objection, little attention has been given to Mellor's (1995) indirect strategy to deny that probability-lowering factors are bona fide causes. According to Mellor, such factors do not satisfy the evidential, explanatory, and instrumental connotations of causation. The paper argues that the evidential connotation only entails an epistemically relativized form of causal (...) attribution, not causation itself, and that there are clear cases of explanation and instrumental reasoning that must appeal to negatively relevant factors. In the end, it suggests a more liberal interpretation of causation that restores its connotations. Una objeción común a las teorías probabilísticas de la causalidad es que aparentemente existen causas que disminuyen la probabilidad de sus efectos. Entre las muchas respuestas a esta objeción, se le ha dado poca atención a la estrategia indirecta de D. H. Mellor (1995) para negar que un factor que disminuya la probabilidad de un efecto sea una causa legítima. Según Mellor, tales factores no satisfacen las connotaciones evidenciales, explicativas e instrumentales de la causalidad. El artículo argumenta que la connotación evidencial sólo implica una forma epistémicamente relativizada de atribución causal y no la causalidad misma, y que hay casos claros de explicación y razonamiento instrumental que deben apelar a factores negativamente relevantes. Se sugiere una interpretación más liberal de la causalidad que reinstaura sus connotaciones. (shrink)
Peter Achinstein has argued at length and on many occasions that the view according to which evidential support is defined in terms of probability-raising faces serious counterexamples and, hence, should be abandoned. Proponents of the positive probabilistic relevance view have remained unconvinced. The debate seems to be in a deadlock. This paper is an attempt to move the debate forward and revisit some of the central claims within this debate. My conclusion here will be that while Achinstein may be (...) right that his counterexamples undermine probabilistic relevance views of what it is for e to be evidence that h, there is still room for a defence of a related probabilistic view about an increase in being supported, according to which, if p > p, then h is more supported given e than it is without e. My argument relies crucially on an insight from recent work on the linguistics of gradable adjectives. (shrink)
We generalize the Kolmogorov axioms for probability calculus to obtain conditions defining, for any given logic, a class of probability functions relative to that logic, coinciding with the standard probability functions in the special case of classical logic but allowing consideration of other classes of "essentially Kolmogorovian" probability functions relative to other logics. We take a broad view of the Bayesian approach as dictating inter alia that from the perspective of a given logic, rational degrees of (...) belief are those representable by probability functions from the class appropriate to that logic. Classical Bayesianism, which fixes the logic as classical logic, is only one version of this general approach. Another, which we call Intuitionistic Bayesianism, selects intuitionistic logic as the preferred logic and the associated class of probability functions as the right class of candidate representions of epistemic states (rational allocations of degrees of belief). Various objections to classical Bayesianism are, we argue, best met by passing to intuitionistic Bayesianism—in which the probability functions are taken relative to intuitionistic logic—rather than by adopting a radically non-Kolmogorovian, for example, nonadditive, conception of (or substitute for) probability functions, in spite of the popularity of the latter response among those who have raised these objections. The interest of intuitionistic Bayesianism is further enhanced by the availability of a Dutch Book argument justifying the selection of intuitionistic probability functions as guides to rational betting behavior when due consideration is paid to the fact that bets are settled only when/if the outcome bet on becomes known. (shrink)
There is a plethora of confirmation measures in the literature. Zalabardo considers four such measures: PD, PR, LD, and LR. He argues for LR and against each of PD, PR, and LD. First, he argues that PR is the better of the two probability measures. Next, he argues that LR is the better of the two likelihood measures. Finally, he argues that LR is superior to PR. I set aside LD and focus on the trio of PD, PR, and (...) LR. The question I address is whether Zalabardo succeeds in showing that LR is superior to each of PD and PR. I argue that the answer is negative. I also argue, though, that measures such as PD and PR, on one hand, and measures such as LR, on the other hand, are naturally understood as explications of distinct senses of confirmation. (shrink)
This paper motivates and develops a novel semantic framework for deontic modals. The framework is designed to shed light on two things: the relationship between deontic modals and substantive theories of practical rationality and the interaction of deontic modals with conditionals, epistemic modals and probability operators. I argue that, in order to model inferential connections between deontic modals and probability operators, we need more structure than is provided by classical intensional theories. In particular, we need probabilistic structure that (...) interacts directly with the compositional semantics of deontic modals. However, I reject theories that provide this probabilistic structure by claiming that the semantics of deontic modals is linked to the Bayesian notion of expectation. I offer a probabilistic premise semantics that explains all the data that create trouble for the rival theories. (shrink)
A probability distribution is regular if it does not assign probability zero to any possible event. While some hold that probabilities should always be regular, three counter-arguments have been posed based on examples where, if regularity holds, then perfectly similar events must have different probabilities. Howson and Benci et al. have raised technical objections to these symmetry arguments, but we see here that their objections fail. Howson says that Williamson’s “isomorphic” events are not in fact isomorphic, but Howson (...) is speaking of set-theoretic representations of events in a probability model. While those sets are not isomorphic, Williamson’s physical events are, in the relevant sense. Benci et al. claim that all three arguments rest on a conflation of different models, but they do not. They are founded on the premise that similar events should have the same probability in the same model, or in one case, on the assumption that a single rotation-invariant distribution is possible. Having failed to refute the symmetry arguments on such technical grounds, one could deny their implicit premises, which is a heavy cost, or adopt varying degrees of instrumentalism or pluralism about regularity, but that would not serve the project of accurately modelling chances. (shrink)
In this study we investigate the influence of reason-relation readings of indicative conditionals and ‘and’/‘but’/‘therefore’ sentences on various cognitive assessments. According to the Frege-Grice tradition, a dissociation is expected. Specifically, differences in the reason-relation reading of these sentences should affect participants’ evaluations of their acceptability but not of their truth value. In two experiments we tested this assumption by introducing a relevance manipulation into the truth-table task as well as in other tasks assessing the participants’ acceptability and probability evaluations. (...) Across the two experiments a strong dissociation was found. The reason-relation reading of all four sentences strongly affected their probability and acceptability evaluations, but hardly affected their respective truth evaluations. Implications of this result for recent work on indicative conditionals are discussed. (shrink)
I develop a probabilistic account of coherence, and argue that at least in certain respects it is preferable to (at least some of) the main extant probabilistic accounts of coherence: (i) Igor Douven and Wouter Meijs’s account, (ii) Branden Fitelson’s account, (iii) Erik Olsson’s account, and (iv) Tomoji Shogenji’s account. Further, I relate the account to an important, but little discussed, problem for standard varieties of coherentism, viz., the “Problem of Justified Inconsistent Beliefs.”.
Laurence BonJour has recently proposed a novel and interesting approach to the problem of induction. He grants that it is contingent, and so not a priori, that our patterns of inductive inference are reliable. Nevertheless, he claims, it is necessary and a priori that those patterns are highly likely to be reliable, and that is enough to ground an a priori justification induction. This paper examines an important defect in BonJour's proposal. Once we make sense of the claim that inductive (...) inference is "necessarily highly likely" to be reliable, we find that it is not knowable a priori after all. (shrink)
This Open Access book addresses the age-old problem of infinite regresses in epistemology. How can we ever come to know something if knowing requires having good reasons, and reasons can only be good if they are backed by good reasons in turn? The problem has puzzled philosophers ever since antiquity, giving rise to what is often called Agrippa's Trilemma. The current volume approaches the old problem in a provocative and thoroughly contemporary way. Taking seriously the idea that good reasons are (...) typically probabilistic in character, it develops and defends a new solution that challenges venerable philosophical intuitions and explains why they were mistakenly held. Key to the new solution is the phenomenon of fading foundations, according to which distant reasons are less important than those that are nearby. The phenomenon takes the sting out of Agrippa's Trilemma; moreover, since the theory that describes it is general and abstract, it is readily applicable outside epistemology, notably to debates on infinite regresses in metaphysics. (shrink)
Many epistemologists hold that an agent can come to justifiably believe that p is true by seeing that it appears that p is true, without having any antecedent reason to believe that visual impressions are generally reliable. Certain reliabilists think this, at least if the agent’s vision is generally reliable. And it is a central tenet of dogmatism (as described by Pryor (2000) and Pryor (2004)) that this is possible. Against these positions it has been argued (e.g. by Cohen (2005) (...) and White (2006)) that this violates some principles from probabilistic learning theory. To see the problem, let’s note what the dogmatist thinks we can learn by paying attention to how things appear. (The reliabilist says the same things, but we’ll focus on the dogmatist.) Suppose an agent receives an appearance that p, and comes to believe that p. Letting Ap be the proposition that it appears to the agent that p, and → be the material implication, we can say that the agent learns that p, and hence is in a position to infer Ap → p, once they receive the evidence Ap.1 This is surprising, because we can prove the following. (shrink)
This paper is a response to Tyler Wunder’s ‘The modality of theism and probabilistic natural theology: a tension in Alvin Plantinga's philosophy’ (this journal). In his article, Wunder argues that if the proponent of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) holds theism to be non-contingent and frames the argument in terms of objective probability, that the EAAN is either unsound or theism is necessarily false. I argue that a modest revision of the EAAN renders Wunder’s objection irrelevant, and that (...) this revision actually widens the scope of the argument. (shrink)
A definition of causation as probability-raising is threatened by two kinds of counterexample: first, when a cause lowers the probability of its effect; and second, when the probability of an effect is raised by a non-cause. In this paper, I present an account that deals successfully with problem cases of both these kinds. In doing so, I also explore some novel implications of incorporating into the metaphysical investigation considerations of causal psychology.
This thesis focuses on expressively rich languages that can formalise talk about probability. These languages have sentences that say something about probabilities of probabilities, but also sentences that say something about the probability of themselves. For example: (π): “The probability of the sentence labelled π is not greater than 1/2.” Such sentences lead to philosophical and technical challenges; but can be useful. For example they bear a close connection to situations where ones confidence in something can affect (...) whether it is the case or not. The motivating interpretation of probability as an agent's degrees of belief will be focused on throughout the thesis. -/- This thesis aims to answer two questions relevant to such frameworks, which correspond to the two parts of the thesis: “How can one develop a formal semantics for this framework?” and “What rational constraints are there on an agent once such expressive frameworks are considered?”. (shrink)
This paper defends David Hume's "Of Miracles" from John Earman's (2000) Bayesian attack by showing that Earman misrepresents Hume's argument against believing in miracles and misunderstands Hume's epistemology of probable belief. It argues, moreover, that Hume's account of evidence is fundamentally non-mathematical and thus cannot be properly represented in a Bayesian framework. Hume's account of probability is show to be consistent with a long and laudable tradition of evidential reasoning going back to ancient Roman law.
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. (shrink)
Logical Probability (LP) is strictly distinguished from Statistical Probability (SP). To measure semantic information or confirm hypotheses, we need to use sampling distribution (conditional SP function) to test or confirm fuzzy truth function (conditional LP function). The Semantic Information Measure (SIM) proposed is compatible with Shannon’s information theory and Fisher’s likelihood method. It can ensure that the less the LP of a predicate is and the larger the true value of the proposition is, the more information there is. (...) So the SIM can be used as Popper's information criterion for falsification or test. The SIM also allows us to optimize the true-value of counterexamples or degrees of disbelief in a hypothesis to get the optimized degree of belief, i. e. Degree of Confirmation (DOC). To explain confirmation, this paper 1) provides the calculation method of the DOC of universal hypotheses; 2) discusses how to resolve Raven Paradox with new DOC and its increment; 3) derives the DOC of rapid HIV tests: DOC of “+” =1-(1-specificity)/sensitivity, which is similar to Likelihood Ratio (=sensitivity/(1-specificity)) but has the upper limit 1; 4) discusses negative DOC for excessive affirmations, wrong hypotheses, or lies; and 5) discusses the DOC of general hypotheses with GPS as example. (shrink)
Many philosophers argue that Keynes’s concept of the “weight of arguments” is an important aspect of argument appraisal. The weight of an argument is the quantity of relevant evidence cited in the premises. However, this dimension of argumentation does not have a received method for formalisation. Kyburg has suggested a measure of weight that uses the degree of imprecision in his system of “Evidential Probability” to quantify weight. I develop and defend this approach to measuring weight. I illustrate the (...) usefulness of this measure by employing it to develop an answer to Popper’s Paradox of Ideal Evidence. (shrink)
This paper explores the interaction of well-motivated (if controversial) principles governing the probability conditionals, with accounts of what it is for a sentence to be indefinite. The conclusion can be played in a variety of ways. It could be regarded as a new reason to be suspicious of the intuitive data about the probability of conditionals; or, holding fixed the data, it could be used to give traction on the philosophical analysis of a contentious notion—indefiniteness. The paper outlines (...) the various options, and shows that ‘rejectionist’ theories of indefiniteness are incompatible with the results. Rejectionist theories include popular accounts such as supervaluationism, non-classical truth-value gap theories, and accounts of indeterminacy that centre on rejecting the law of excluded middle. An appendix compares the results obtained here with the ‘impossibility’ results descending from Lewis ( 1976 ). (shrink)
We provide a 'verisimilitudinarian' analysis of the well-known Linda paradox or conjunction fallacy, i.e., the fact that most people judge the probability of the conjunctive statement "Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement" (B & F) as more probable than the isolated statement "Linda is a bank teller" (B), contrary to an uncontroversial principle of probability theory. The basic idea is that experimental participants may judge B & F a better hypothesis about Linda (...) as compared to B because they evaluate B & F as more verisimilar than B. In fact, the hypothesis "feminist bank teller", while less likely to be true than "bank teller", may well be a better approximation to the truth about Linda. (shrink)
Karl Popper discovered in 1938 that the unconditional probability of a conditional of the form ‘If A, then B’ normally exceeds the conditional probability of B given A, provided that ‘If A, then B’ is taken to mean the same as ‘Not (A and not B)’. So it was clear (but presumably only to him at that time) that the conditional probability of B given A cannot be reduced to the unconditional probability of the material conditional (...) ‘If A, then B’. I describe how this insight was developed in Popper’s writings and I add to this historical study a logical one, in which I compare laws of excess in Kolmogorov probability theory with laws of excess in Popper probability theory. (shrink)
Many epistemologists have responded to the lottery paradox by proposing formal rules according to which high probability defeasibly warrants acceptance. Douven and Williamson present an ingenious argument purporting to show that such rules invariably trivialise, in that they reduce to the claim that a probability of 1 warrants acceptance. Douven and Williamson’s argument does, however, rest upon significant assumptions – amongst them a relatively strong structural assumption to the effect that the underlying probability space is both finite (...) and uniform. In this paper, I will show that something very like Douven and Williamson’s argument can in fact survive with much weaker structural assumptions – and, in particular, can apply to infinite probability spaces. (shrink)
What are the probabilities that this universe is repeated exactly the same with you in it again? Is God invented by human imagination or is the result of human intuition? The intuition that the same laws/mechanisms (evolution, stability winning probability) that have created something like the human being capable of self-awareness and controlling its surroundings, could create a being capable of controlling all what it exists? Will be the characteristics of the next universes random or tend to something? All (...) these ques-tions that with different shapes (but the same essence) have been asked by human be-ings from the beginning of times will be developed in this paper. (shrink)
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