Mind 129 (513):71-111 (2020)

In a recent paper Samir Okasha has suggested an application of Arrow’s impossibility theorem to theory choice. When epistemic virtues are interpreted as ‘voters’ in charge of ranking competing theories, and there are more than two theories at stake, the final ordering is bound to coincide with the one proposed by one of the voters, provided a number of seemingly reasonable conditions are in place. In a similar spirit, Jacob Stegenga has shown that Arrow’s theorem applies to the amalgamation of evidence; the ‘voters’ here are the different sources of evidence. As with Okasha’s proposal, it is not clear how to avoid Arrow’s pessimistic conclusion.In this paper we develop a novel argument that purports to show that, in typical examples, Arrow’s result does not obtain when dealing with evidence amalgamation. The reason is that we cannot escape the well-known Duhem problem: the evidence actually confirms complex conjunctions that include various auxiliary hypotheses. We argue that confirmational holism induces us to restrict the domain of a reasonable amalgamation function, thus violating one of Arrow’s conditions. The upshot is that we are now able to see the Duhem problem under a different, positive light – namely, as a phenomenon that makes the aggregation of the evidence possible in the first place, when there are at least three options on the table.
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzy062
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Bayesian Epistemology.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2003 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Social Choice and Individual Values.Irving M. Copi - 1952 - Science and Society 16 (2):181-181.

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