Carnap-confirmation, content-cutting, & real confirmation

Abstract

The attempt to explicate the intuitive notions of confirmation and inductive support through use of the formal calculus of probability received its canonical formulation in Carnap's The Logical Foundations of Probability. It is a central part of modern Bayesianism as developed recently, for instance, by Paul Horwich and John Earman. Carnap places much emphasis on the identification of confirmation with the notion of probabilistic favorable relevance. Notoriously, the notion of confirmation as probabilistic favorable relevance violates the intuitive transmittability condition that if e confirms h and h' is part of the content of h then e confirms h'. This suggests that, pace Carnap, it cannot capture our intuitive notions of confirmation and inductive support. Without transmittability confirmation losses much of its intrinsic interest. If e, say a report of past observations, can confirm h, say a law-like generalization, without that confirmation being transmitted to those parts of h dealing with the as yet unobserved, then it is not clear why we should be interested in whether h is confirmed or not. The following paper rehearses these difficulties and then proposes a new probabilistic account of confirmation that does not violate the transmittability condition.

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Ken Gemes
Birkbeck College

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