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)
Many have argued that a rational agent's attitude towards a proposition may be better represented by a probability range than by a single number. I show that in such cases an agent will have unstable betting behaviour, and so will behave in an unpredictable way. I use this point to argue against a range of responses to the ‘two bets’ argument for sharp probabilities.
This chapter will review selected aspects of the terrain of discussions about probabilities in statistical mechanics (with no pretensions to exhaustiveness, though the major issues will be touched upon), and will argue for a number of claims. None of the claims to be defended is entirely original, but all deserve emphasis. The first, and least controversial, is that probabilistic notions are needed to make sense of statistical mechanics. The reason for this is the same reason that convinced Maxwell, Gibbs, and (...) Boltzmann that probabilities would be needed, namely, that the second law of thermodynamics, which in its original formulation says that certain processes are impossible, must, on the kinetic theory, be replaced by a weaker formulation according to which what the original version deems impossible is merely improbable. Second is that we ought not take the standard measures invoked in equilibrium statistical mechanics as giving, in any sense, the correct probabilities about microstates of the system. We can settle for a much weaker claim: that the probabilities for outcomes of experiments yielded by the standard distributions are effectively the same as those yielded by any distribution that we should take as a representing probabilities over microstates. Lastly, (and most controversially): in asking about the status of probabilities in statistical mechanics, the familiar dichotomy between epistemic probabilities (credences, or degrees of belief) and ontic (physical) probabilities is insufficient; the concept of probability that is best suited to the needs of statistical mechanics is one that combines epistemic and physical considerations. (shrink)
It is well known that classical, aka ‘sharp’, Bayesian decision theory, which models belief states as single probability functions, faces a number of serious difficulties with respect to its handling of agnosticism. These difficulties have led to the increasing popularity of so-called ‘imprecise’ models of decision-making, which represent belief states as sets of probability functions. In a recent paper, however, Adam Elga has argued in favour of a putative normative principle of sequential choice that he claims to be (...) borne out by the sharp model but not by any promising incarnation of its imprecise counterpart. After first pointing out that Elga has fallen short of establishing that his principle is indeed uniquely borne out by the sharp model, I cast aspersions on its plausibility. I show that a slight weakening of the principle is satisfied by at least one, but interestingly not all, varieties of the imprecise model and point out that Elga has failed to motivate his stronger commitment. (shrink)
John Maynard Keynes’s A Treatise on Probability is the seminal text for the logical interpretation of probability. According to his analysis, probabilities are evidential relations between a hypothesis and some evidence, just like the relations of deductive logic. While some philosophers had suggested similar ideas prior to Keynes, it was not until his Treatise that the logical interpretation of probability was advocated in a clear, systematic and rigorous way. I trace Keynes’s influence in the philosophy of (...) class='Hi'>probability through a heterogeneous sample of thinkers who adopted his interpretation. This sample consists of Frederick C. Benenson, Roy Harrod, Donald C. Williams, Henry E. Kyburg and David Stove. The ideas of Keynes prove to be adaptable to their diverse theories of probability. My discussion indicates both the robustness of Keynes’s probability theory and the importance of its influence on the philosophers whom I describe. I also discuss the Problem of the Priors. I argue that none of those I discuss have obviously improved on Keynes’s theory with respect to this issue. (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)
Enjoying great popularity in decision theory, epistemology, and philosophy of science, Bayesianism as understood here is fundamentally concerned with epistemically ideal rationality. It assumes a tight connection between evidential probability and ideally rational credence, and usually interprets evidential probability in terms of such credence. Timothy Williamson challenges Bayesianism by arguing that evidential probabilities cannot be adequately interpreted as the credences of an ideal agent. From this and his assumption that evidential probabilities cannot be interpreted as the actual credences (...) of human agents either, he concludes that no interpretation of evidential probabilities in terms of credence is adequate. I argue to the contrary. My overarching aim is to show on behalf of Bayesians how one can still interpret evidential probabilities in terms of ideally rational credence and how one can maintain a tight connection between evidential probabilities and ideally rational credence even if the former cannot be interpreted in terms of the latter. By achieving this aim I illuminate the limits and prospects of Bayesianism. (shrink)
The epistemic probability of A given B is the degree to which B evidentially supports A, or makes A plausible. This paper is a first step in answering the question of what determines the values of epistemic probabilities. I break this question into two parts: the structural question and the substantive question. Just as an object’s weight is determined by its mass and gravitational acceleration, some probabilities are determined by other, more basic ones. The structural question asks what probabilities (...) are not determined in this way—these are the basic probabilities which determine values for all other probabilities. The substantive question asks how the values of these basic probabilities are determined. I defend an answer to the structural question on which basic probabilities are the probabilities of atomic propositions conditional on potential direct explanations. I defend this against the view, implicit in orthodox mathematical treatments of probability, that basic probabilities are the unconditional probabilities of complete worlds. I then apply my answer to the structural question to clear up common confusions in expositions of Bayesianism and shed light on the “problem of the priors.”. (shrink)
In this paper, I will attempt to develop and defend a common form of intuitive resistance to the companions in guilt argument. I will argue that one can reasonably believe there are promising solutions to the access problem for mathematical realism that don’t translate to moral realism. In particular, I will suggest that the structuralist project of accounting for mathematical knowledge in terms of some form of logical knowledge offers significant hope of success while no analogous approach offers such hope (...) for moral realism. (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)
Stalnaker's Thesis about indicative conditionals is, roughly, that the probability one ought to assign to an indicative conditional equals the probability that one ought to assign to its consequent conditional on its antecedent. The thesis seems right. If you draw a card from a standard 52-card deck, how confident are you that the card is a diamond if it's a red card? To answer this, you calculate the proportion of red cards that are diamonds -- that is, you (...) calculate the probability of drawing a diamond conditional on drawing a red card. Skyrms' Thesis about counterfactual conditionals is, roughly, that the probability that one ought to assign to a counterfactual equals one's rational expectation of the chance, at a relevant past time, of its consequent conditional on its antecedent. This thesis also seems right. If you decide not to enter a 100-ticket lottery, how confident are you that you would have won had you bought a ticket? To answer this, you calculate the prior chance--that is, the chance just before your decision not to buy a ticket---of winning conditional on entering the lottery. The central project of this article is to develop a new uniform theory of conditionals that allows us to derive a version of Skyrms' Thesis from a version of Stalnaker's Thesis, together with a chance-deference norm relating rational credence to beliefs about objective chance. (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)
According to the Lockean thesis, a proposition is believed just in case it is highly probable. While this thesis enjoys strong intuitive support, it is known to conflict with seemingly plausible logical constraints on our beliefs. One way out of this conflict is to make probability 1 a requirement for belief, but most have rejected this option for entailing what they see as an untenable skepticism. Recently, two new solutions to the conflict have been proposed that are alleged to (...) be non-skeptical. We compare these proposals with each other and with the Lockean thesis, in particular with regard to the question of how much we gain by adopting any one of them instead of the probability 1 requirement, that is, of how likely it is that one believes more than the things one is fully certain of. (shrink)
Non-Archimedean probability functions allow us to combine regularity with perfect additivity. We discuss the philosophical motivation for a particular choice of axioms for a non-Archimedean probability theory and answer some philosophical objections that have been raised against infinitesimal probabilities in general.
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)
We propose a new account of indicative conditionals, giving acceptability and logical closure conditions for them. We start from Adams’ Thesis: the claim that the acceptability of a simple indicative equals the corresponding conditional probability. The Thesis is widely endorsed, but arguably false and refuted by empirical research. To fix it, we submit, we need a relevance constraint: we accept a simple conditional 'If φ, then ψ' to the extent that (i) the conditional probability p(ψ|φ) is high, provided (...) that (ii) φ is relevant for ψ. How (i) should work is well-understood. It is (ii) that holds the key to improve our understanding of conditionals. Our account has (i) a probabilistic component, using Popper functions; (ii) a relevance component, given via an algebraic structure of topics or subject matters. We present a probabilistic logic for simple indicatives, and argue that its (in)validities are both theoretically desirable and in line with empirical results on how people reason with conditionals. (shrink)
In this short survey article, I discuss Bell’s theorem and some strategies that attempt to avoid the conclusion of non-locality. I focus on two that intersect with the philosophy of probability: (1) quantum probabilities and (2) superdeterminism. The issues they raised not only apply to a wide class of no-go theorems about quantum mechanics but are also of general philosophical interest.
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)
Bayesianism is the position that scientific reasoning is probabilistic and that probabilities are adequately interpreted as an agent's actual subjective degrees of belief, measured by her betting behaviour. Confirmation is one important aspect of scientific reasoning. The thesis of this paper is the following: if scientific reasoning is at all probabilistic, the subjective interpretation has to be given up in order to get right confirmation—and thus scientific reasoning in general. The Bayesian approach to scientific reasoning Bayesian confirmation theory The example (...) The less reliable the source of information, the higher the degree of Bayesian confirmation Measure sensitivity A more general version of the problem of old evidence Conditioning on the entailment relation The counterfactual strategy Generalizing the counterfactual strategy The desired result, and a necessary and sufficient condition for it Actual degrees of belief The common knock-down feature, or ‘anything goes’ The problem of prior probabilities. (shrink)
Should we understand implicit attitudes on the model of belief? I argue that implicit attitudes are (probably) members of a different psychological kind altogether, because they seem to be insensitive to the logical form of an agent’s thoughts and perceptions. A state is sensitive to logical form only if it is sensitive to the logical constituents of the content of other states (e.g., operators like negation and conditional). I explain sensitivity to logical form and argue that it is a necessary (...) condition for belief. I appeal to two areas of research that seem to show that implicit attitudes fail spectacularly to satisfy this condition—although persistent gaps in the empirical literature leave matters inconclusive. I sketch an alternative account, according to which implicit attitudes are sensitive merely to spatiotemporal relations in thought and perception, i.e., the spatial and temporal orders in which people think, see, or hear things. (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)
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)
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)
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)
In this paper, I will claim that fictional works apparently about utterly immigrant objects, i.e., real individuals imported in fiction from reality, are instead about fictional individuals that intentionally resemble those real individuals in a significant manner: fictional surrogates of such individuals. Since I also share the realists’ conviction that the remaining fictional works concern native characters, i.e., full-fledged fictional individuals that originate in fiction itself, I will here defend a hyperrealist position according to which fictional works only concern fictional (...) individuals. (shrink)
Will future lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), or ‘killer robots’, be a threat to humanity? The European Parliament has called for a moratorium or ban of LAWS; the ‘Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention at the United Nations’ are presently discussing such a ban, which is supported by the great majority of writers and campaigners on the issue. However, the main arguments in favour of a ban are unsound. LAWS do not support extrajudicial killings, they do not take responsibility away (...) from humans; in fact they increase the abil-ity to hold humans accountable for war crimes. Using LAWS in war would probably reduce human suffering overall. Finally, the availability of LAWS would probably not increase the probability of war or other lethal conflict—especially as compared to extant remote-controlled weapons. The widespread fear of killer robots is unfounded: They are probably good news. (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)
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)
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)
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 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)
Automated reasoning about uncertain knowledge has many applications. One difficulty when developing such systems is the lack of a completely satisfactory integration of logic and probability. We address this problem directly. Expressive languages like higher-order logic are ideally suited for representing and reasoning about structured knowledge. Uncertain knowledge can be modeled by using graded probabilities rather than binary truth-values. The main technical problem studied in this paper is the following: Given a set of sentences, each having some probability (...) of being true, what probability should be ascribed to other (query) sentences? A natural wish-list, among others, is that the probability distribution (i) is consistent with the knowledge base, (ii) allows for a consistent inference procedure and in particular (iii) reduces to deductive logic in the limit of probabilities being 0 and 1, (iv) allows (Bayesian) inductive reasoning and (v) learning in the limit and in particular (vi) allows confirmation of universally quantified hypotheses/sentences. We translate this wish-list into technical requirements for a prior probability and show that probabilities satisfying all our criteria exist. We also give explicit constructions and several general characterizations of probabilities that satisfy some or all of the criteria and various (counter) examples. We also derive necessary and sufficient conditions for extending beliefs about finitely many sentences to suitable probabilities over all sentences, and in particular least dogmatic or least biased ones. We conclude with a brief outlook on how the developed theory might be used and approximated in autonomous reasoning agents. Our theory is a step towards a globally consistent and empirically satisfactory unification of probability and logic. (shrink)
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)
In this paper we provide a psychological explanation for ‘grounding observations’—observations that are thought to provide evidence that there exists a relation of ground. Our explanation does not appeal to the presence of any such relation. Instead, it appeals to certain evolved cognitive mechanisms, along with the traditional modal relations of supervenience, necessitation and entailment. We then consider what, if any, metaphysical conclusions we can draw from the obtaining of such an explanation, and, in particular, if it tells us anything (...) about whether we ought to posit a relation of ground. (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)
One very popular framework in contemporary epistemology is Bayesian. The central epistemic state is subjective confidence, or credence. Traditional epistemic states like belief and knowledge tend to be sidelined, or even dispensed with entirely. Credences are often introduced as familiar mental states, merely in need of a special label for the purposes of epistemology. But whether they are implicitly recognized by the folk or posits of a sophisticated scientific psychology, they do not appear to fit well with perception, as is (...) often noted. -/- This paper investigates the tension between probabilistic cognition and non-probabilistic perception. The tension is real, and the solution—to adapt a phrase from Quine and Goodman—is to renounce credences altogether. (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)
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)
In a quantum universe with a strong arrow of time, it is standard to postulate that the initial wave function started in a particular macrostate---the special low-entropy macrostate selected by the Past Hypothesis. Moreover, there is an additional postulate about statistical mechanical probabilities according to which the initial wave function is a ''typical'' choice in the macrostate. Together, they support a probabilistic version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: typical initial wave functions will increase in entropy. Hence, there are two (...) sources of randomness in such a universe: the quantum-mechanical probabilities of the Born rule and the statistical mechanical probabilities of the Statistical Postulate. I propose a new way to understand time's arrow in a quantum universe. It is based on what I call the Thermodynamic Theories of Quantum Mechanics. According to this perspective, there is a natural choice for the initial quantum state of the universe, which is given by not a wave function but by a density matrix. The density matrix plays a microscopic role: it appears in the fundamental dynamical equations of those theories. The density matrix also plays a macroscopic / thermodynamic role: it is exactly the projection operator onto the Past Hypothesis subspace. Thus, given an initial subspace, we obtain a unique choice of the initial density matrix. I call this property "the conditional uniqueness" of the initial quantum state. The conditional uniqueness provides a new and general strategy to eliminate statistical mechanical probabilities in the fundamental physical theories, by which we can reduce the two sources of randomness to only the quantum mechanical one. I also explore the idea of an absolutely unique initial quantum state, in a way that might realize Penrose's idea of a strongly deterministic universe. (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 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)
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