Erkenntnis 57 (2):137 - 150 (2002)

Luc Bovens
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
If you believe more things you thereby run a greater risk of being in error than if you believe fewer things. From the point of view of avoiding error, it is best not to believe anything at all, or to have very uncommitted beliefs. But considering the fact that we all in fact do entertain many specific beliefs, this recommendation is obviously in flagrant dissonance with our actual epistemic practice. Let us call the problem raised by this apparent conflict the Addition Problem. In this paper we will find reasons to reject a particular premise used in the formulation of the Addition Problem, namely, the fundamental premise according to which believing more things increases the risk of error. As we will see, acquiring more beliefs need not decrease the probability of the whole, and hence need not increase the risk of error. In fact, more beliefs can mean an increase in the probability of the whole and a corresponding decrease in the risk of error. We will consider the Addition Problem as it arises in the context of the coherence theory of epistemic justification, while keeping firmly in mind that the point we wish to make is of epistemological importance also outside the specific coherentist dispute. The problem of determining exactly how the probability of the whole system depends on such factors as coherence, reliability and independence will be seen to open up an interesting area of research in which the theory of conditional independence structures is a helpful tool.
Keywords Probabability  Coherentism
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/a:1020913625002
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References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Causality.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Coherentist Theories of Epistemic Justification.Jonathan Kvanvig - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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