Conditionals are sentences of the form 'If A, then B', and they play a central role in scientific, logical, and everyday reasoning. They have been in the philosophical limelight for centuries, and more recently, they have been receiving attention from psychologists, linguists, and computer scientists. In spite of this, many key questions concerning conditionals remain unanswered. While most of the work on conditionals has addressed semantical questions - questions about the truth conditions of conditionals - this book focuses on the (...) main epistemological questions that conditionals give rise to, such as: what are the probabilities of conditionals? When is a conditional acceptable or assertable? What do we learn when we receive new conditional information? In answering these questions, this book combines the formal tools of logic and probability theory with the experimental approach of cognitive psychology. It will be of interest to students and researchers in logic, epistemology, and psychology of reasoning. (shrink)
Conceptual spaces have become an increasingly popular modeling tool in cognitive psychology. The core idea of the conceptual spaces approach is that concepts can be represented as regions in similarity spaces. While it is generally acknowledged that not every region in such a space represents a natural concept, it is still an open question what distinguishes those regions that represent natural concepts from those that do not. The central claim of this paper is that natural concepts are represented by the (...) cells of an optimally designed similarity space. (shrink)
This paper aims to contribute to our understanding of the notion of coherence by explicating in probabilistic terms, step by step, what seem to be our most basic intuitions about that notion, to wit, that coherence is a matter of hanging or fitting together, and that coherence is a matter of degree. A qualitative theory of coherence will serve as a stepping stone to formulate a set of quantitative measures of coherence, each of which seems to capture well the aforementioned (...) intuitions. Subsequently it will be argued that one of those measures does better than the others in light of some more specific intuitions about coherence. This measure will be defended against two seemingly obvious objections. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with formal solutions to the lottery paradox on which high probability defeasibly warrants acceptance. It considers some recently proposed solutions of this type and presents an argument showing that these solutions are trivial in that they boil down to the claim that perfect probability is sufficient for rational acceptability. The argument is then generalized, showing that a broad class of similar solutions faces the same problem. An argument against some formal solutions to the lottery paradox The (...) argument generalized Some variations Adding modalities Anticipated objections. (shrink)
According to what is now commonly referred to as “the Equation” in the literature on indicative conditionals, the probability of any indicative conditional equals the probability of its consequent of the conditional given the antecedent of the conditional. Philosophers widely agree in their assessment that the triviality arguments of Lewis and others have conclusively shown the Equation to be tenable only at the expense of the view that indicative conditionals express propositions. This study challenges the correctness of that assessment by (...) presenting data that cast doubt on an assumption underlying all triviality arguments. (shrink)
This article compares inference to the best explanation with Bayes’s rule in a social setting, specifically, in the context of a variant of the Hegselmann–Krause model in which agents not only update their belief states on the basis of evidence they receive directly from the world, but also take into account the belief states of their fellow agents. So far, the update rules mentioned have been studied only in an individualistic setting, and it is known that in such a setting (...) both have their strengths as well as their weaknesses. It is shown here that in a social setting, inference to the best explanation outperforms Bayes’s rule according to every desirable criterion. 1 What Is Inference to the Best Explanation?2 Judging the Rules—By Which Lights?3 From an Individualistic to a Social Perspective 3.1 The Hegselmann–Krause model 3.2 A probabilistic extension of the Hegselmann–Krause model 3.3 Simulations4 Results and Discussion5 Interpretation6 Conclusion. (shrink)
The conceptual spaces approach has recently emerged as a novel account of concepts. Its guiding idea is that concepts can be represented geometrically, by means of metrical spaces. While it is generally recognized that many of our concepts are vague, the question of how to model vagueness in the conceptual spaces approach has not been addressed so far, even though the answer is far from straightforward. The present paper aims to fill this lacuna.
Various authors have recently argued that you cannot rationally stick to your belief in the face of known disagreement with an epistemic peer, that is, a person you take to have the same evidence and judgmental skills as you do. For, they claim, because there is but one rational response to any body of evidence, a disagreement with an epistemic peer indicates that at least one of you is not responding rationally to the evidence. Given that you take your peer (...) to have the same judgmental skills as you do, and thus regard her to be equally good at assessing the evidence as you are, you will have as much reason for thinking that it is you who is not responding rationally to the evidence as for thinking that it is her. You thus have reason for thinking that your belief on the disputed matter is not a rational response to the evidence. Hence, you cannot rationally stick to your belief. (shrink)
Bayesians have traditionally taken a dim view of the Inference to the Best Explanation, arguing that, if IBE is at variance with Bayes ' rule, then it runs afoul of the dynamic Dutch book argument. More recently, Bayes ' rule has been claimed to be superior on grounds of conduciveness to our epistemic goal. The present paper aims to show that neither of these arguments succeeds in undermining IBE.
There has been a probabilistic turn in contemporary cognitive science. Far and away, most of the work in this vein is Bayesian, at least in name. Coinciding with this development, philosophers have increasingly promoted Bayesianism as the best normative account of how humans ought to reason. In this paper, we make a push for exploring the probabilistic terrain outside of Bayesianism. Non-Bayesian, but still probabilistic, theories provide plausible competitors both to descriptive and normative Bayesian accounts. We argue for this general (...) idea via recent work on explanationist models of updating, which are fundamentally probabilistic but assign a substantial, non-Bayesian role to explanatory considerations. (shrink)
There is an ongoing controversy in philosophy about the connection between explanation and inference. According to Bayesians, explanatory considerations should be given weight in determining which inferences to make, if at all, only insofar as doing so is compatible with Strict Conditionalization. Explanationists, on the other hand, hold that explanatory considerations can be relevant to the question of how much confidence to invest in our hypotheses in ways which violate Strict Conditionalization. The controversy has focused on normative issues. This paper (...) investigates experimentally the descriptive question of whether judgments of the explanatory goodness of hypotheses do play a role when people revise their degrees of belief in those hypotheses upon the receipt of new evidence. We present the results of three experiments that together strongly support the predictive superiority of the explanationist position. (shrink)
Conditionals whose antecedent and consequent are not somehow internally connected tend to strike us as odd. The received doctrine is that this felt oddness is to be explained pragmatically. Exactly how the pragmatic explanation is supposed to go has remained elusive, however. This paper discusses recent philosophical and psychological work that attempts to account semantically for the apparent oddness of conditionals lacking an internal connection between their parts.
It has seemed natural to model phenomena related to vagueness in terms of graded membership. However, so far no satisfactory answer has been given to the question of what graded membership is nor has any attempt been made to describe in detail a procedure for determining degrees of membership. We seek to remedy these lacunae by building on recent work on typicality and graded membership in cognitive science and combining some of the results obtained there with a version of the (...) conceptual spaces framework. (shrink)
Van Fraassen (1989) argues that Inference to the Best Explanation is incoherent in the sense that adopting it as a rule for belief change will make one susceptible to a dynamic Dutch book. The present paper argues against this. A strategy is described that allows us to infer to the best explanation free of charge.
In a famous critique, Goodman dismissed similarity as a slippery and both philosophically and scientifically useless notion. We revisit his critique in the light of important recent work on similarity in psychology and cognitive science. Specifically, we use Tversky’s influential set-theoretic account of similarity as well as Gärdenfors’s more recent resuscitation of the geometrical account to show that, while Goodman’s critique contained valuable insights, it does not warrant a dismissal of similarity.
The Lottery Paradox and the Preface Paradox both involve the thesis that high probability is sufficient for rational acceptability. The standard solution to these paradoxes denies that rational acceptability is deductively closed. This solution has a number of untoward consequences. The present paper suggests that a better solution to the paradoxes is to replace the thesis that high probability suffices for rational acceptability with a somewhat stricter thesis. This avoids the untoward consequences of the standard solution. The new solution will (...) be defended against a seemingly obvious objection. 1 The paradoxes of rational acceptability 2 The standard solution 3 A new solution to the paradoxes 4 Basic assumptions 5 The new solution defended 6 Conclusion 7 Appendix. (shrink)
According to so-called epistemic theories of conditionals, the assertability/acceptability/acceptance of a conditional requires the existence of an epistemically significant relation between the conditional’s antecedent and its consequent. This paper points to some linguistic data that our current best theories of the foregoing type appear unable to explain. Further, it presents a new theory of the same type that does not have that shortcoming. The theory is then defended against some seemingly obvious objections.
It is widely believed that the so-called knowledge account of assertion best explains why sentences such as “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t believe it” and “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t know it” appear odd to us. I argue that the rival rational credibility account of assertion explains that fact just as well. I do so by providing a broadly Bayesian analysis of the said type of sentences which shows that such sentences cannot express rationally held beliefs. (...) As an interesting aside, it will be seen that these sentences also harbor a lesson for Bayesian epistemology itself. (shrink)
A number of authors have recently put forward arguments pro or contra various rules for scoring probability estimates. In doing so, they have skipped over a potentially important consideration in making such assessments, to wit, that the hypotheses whose probabilities are estimated can approximate the truth to different degrees. Once this is recognized, it becomes apparent that the question of how to assess probability estimates depends heavily on context.
Inference to the Best Explanation has become the subject of a lively debate in the philosophy of science. Scientific realists maintain, while scientific antirealists deny, that it is a compelling rule of inference. It seems that any attempt to settle this debate empirically must beg the question against the antirealist. The present paper argues that this impression is misleading. A method is described that, by combining Glymour's theory of bootstrapping and Hacking's arguments from microscopy, allows us to test IBE without (...) begging any antirealist issues. (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)
Many conditionals seem to convey the existence of a link between their antecedent and consequent. We draw on a recently proposed typology of conditionals to argue for an old philosophical idea according to which the link is inferential in nature. We show that the proposal has explanatory force by presenting empirical results on the evidential meaning of certain English and Dutch modal expressions.
According to the Principle of Conditional Non-Contradiction (CNC), conditionals of the form “If p, q” and “If p, not q” cannot both be true, unless p is inconsistent. This principle is widely regarded as an adequacy constraint on any semantics that attributes truth conditions to conditionals. Gibbard has presented an example of a pair of conditionals that, in the context he describes, appear to violate CNC. He concluded from this that conditionals lack truth conditions. We argue that this conclusion is (...) rash by proposing a new diagnosis of what is going on in Gibbard’s argument. We also provide empirical evidence in support of our proposal. (shrink)
Edgington has proposed a solution to the sorites paradox in terms of ‘verities’, which she defines as degrees of closeness to clear truth. Central to her solution is the assumption that verities are formally probabilities. She is silent on what verities might derive from and on why they should be probabilities. This paper places Edgington’s solution in the framework of a spatial approach to conceptualization, arguing that verities may be conceived of as deriving from how our concepts relate to each (...) other. Building on work by Kamp and Partee, this paper further shows how verities, thus conceived of, may plausibly be assumed to have probabilistic structure. The new interpretation of verities is argued to also help answer the question of what the verities of indicative conditionals are, a question which Edgington leaves open. Finally, the question of how to accommodate higher-order vagueness, given this interpretation, is addressed. (shrink)
Psillos has recently argued that van Fraassen’s arguments against abduction fail. Moreover, he claimed that, if successful, these arguments would equally undermine van Fraassen’s own constructive empiricism, for, Psillos thinks, it is only by appeal to abduction that constructive empiricism can be saved from issuing in a bald scepticism. We show that Psillos’ criticisms are misguided, and that they are mostly based on misinterpretations of van Fraassen’s arguments. Furthermore, we argue that Psillos’ arguments for his claim that constructive empiricism itself (...) needs abduction point up to his failure to recognize the importance of van Fraassen’s broader epistemology for constructive empiricism. Towards the end of our paper we discuss the suspected relationship between constructive empiricism and scepticism in the light of this broader epistemology, and from a somewhat more general perspective. (shrink)
It has been claimed that epistemic peers, upon discovering that they disagree on some issue, should give up their opposing views and ‘split the difference’. The present paper challenges this claim by showing, with the help of computer simulations, that what the rational response to the discovery of peer disagreement is—whether it is sticking to one’s belief or splitting the difference—depends on factors that are contingent and highly context-sensitive.Keywords: Peer disagreement; Computer simulations; Opinion dynamics; Hegselmann–Krause model; Social epistemology.
This paper considers Kamp and Partee's account of graded membership within a conceptual spaces framework and puts the account to the test in the domain of colors. Three experiments are reported that are meant to determine, on the one hand, the regions in color space where the typical instances of blue and green are located and, on the other hand, the degrees of blueness/greenness of various shades in the blue–green region as judged by human observers. From the locations of the (...) typical blue and typical green regions in conjunction with Kamp and Partee's account follow degrees of blueness/greenness for the color shades we are interested in. These predicted degrees are compared with the judged degrees, as obtained in the experiments. The results of the comparison support the account of graded membership at issue. (shrink)
According to Stalnaker’s Hypothesis, the probability of an indicative conditional, $\Pr(\varphi \rightarrow \psi),$ equals the probability of the consequent conditional on its antecedent, $\Pr(\psi | \varphi)$ . While the hypothesis is generally taken to have been conclusively refuted by Lewis’ and others’ triviality arguments, its descriptive adequacy has been confirmed in many experimental studies. In this paper, we consider some possible ways of resolving the apparent tension between the analytical and the empirical results relating to Stalnaker’s Hypothesis and we argue (...) that none offer a satisfactory resolution. (shrink)
This position paper advocates combining formal epistemology and the new paradigm psychology of reasoning in the studies of conditionals and reasoning with uncertainty. The new paradigm psychology of reasoning is characterized by the use of probability theory as a rationality framework instead of classical logic, used by more traditional approaches to the psychology of reasoning. This paper presents a new interdisciplinary research program which involves both formal and experimental work. To illustrate the program, the paper discusses recent work on the (...) paradoxes of the material conditional, nonmonotonic reasoning, and Adams’ Thesis. It also identifies the issue of updating on conditionals as an area which seems to call for a combined formal and empirical approach. (shrink)
Many have the intuition that the right response to the Lottery Paradox is to deny that one can justifiably believe of even a single lottery ticket that it will lose. The paper shows that from any theory of justification that solves the paradox in accordance with this intuition, a theory not of that kind can be derived that also solves the paradox but is more conducive to our epistemic goal than the former. It is argued that currently there is no (...) valid reason not to give preference to the derived accounts over the accounts from which they come. (shrink)
This paper argues that pragmatic considerations similar to the ones that Grice has shown pertain to assertability pertain to acceptability. It further shows how this should affect some widely held epistemic principles. The idea of a pragmatics of belief is defended against some seemingly obvious objections.
Many philosophers deny that happiness can be equated with pleasurable experiences. Nozick introduced an experience machine thought experiment to support the idea that happiness requires pleasurable experiences that are “in contact with reality.” In this thought experiment, people can choose to plug into a machine that induces exclusively pleasurable experiences. We test Nozick’s hypothesis that people will reject this offer. We also contrast Nozick’s experience machine scenario with scenarios that are less artificial, and offer options which are less invasive or (...) disruptive than being connected to a machine, specifically scenarios in which people are offered an experience pill or a pill that improves overall functioning. (shrink)
It is known that evidential support, on the Bayesian definition of this notion, is intransitive. According to some, however, the Bayesian definition is too weak to be materially adequate. This paper investigates whether evidential support is transitive on some plausible probabilistic strengthening of that definition. It is shown that the answer is negative. In fact, it will appear that even under conditions under which the Bayesian notion of evidential support is transitive, the most plausible candidate strengthenings are not.
According to a much discussed argument, reliabilism is defective for making knowledge too easy to come by. In a recent paper, Weisberg aims to show that this argument relies on a type of reasoning that is rejectable on independent grounds. We argue that the blanket rejection that Weisberg recommends of this type of reasoning is both unwarranted and unwelcome. Drawing on an older discussion in the philosophy of science, we show that placing some relatively modest restrictions on the said type (...) of reasoning suffices to block the anti-reliabilist argument. (shrink)
This paper highlights some connections between work on truth approximation and work in social epistemology, in particular work on peer disagreement. In some of the literature on truth approximation, questions have been addressed concerning the efficiency of research strategies for approximating the truth. So far, social aspects of research strategies have not received any attention in this context. Recent findings in the field of opinion dynamics suggest that this is a mistake. How scientists exchange and take into account information about (...) each others’ beliefs may greatly influence the accuracy and speed with which the scientific community as a whole approximates the truth. On the other hand, social epistemologists concerned with peer disagreement have so far neglected the question of how practices of responding to disagreements with peers fare with respect to the goal of approximating the truth. Again, work on opinion dynamics shows that this may be a mistake, and that how we ought to respond to disagreements with our peers may depend on the specific purposes of our investigations. (shrink)
Much recent discussion in social epistemology has focussed on the question of whether peers can rationally sustain a disagreement. A growing number of social epistemologists hold that the answer is negative. We point to considerations from the history of science that favor rather the opposite answer. However, we also explain how the other position can appear intuitively attractive.
There is widespread agreement that we cannot know of a lottery ticket we own that it is a loser prior to the drawing of the lottery. At the same time we appear to have knowledge of events that will occur only if our ticket is a loser. Supposing any plausible closure principle for knowledge, the foregoing seems to yield a paradox. Appealing to some broadly Gricean insights, the present paper argues that this paradox is apparent only.
Glymour’s theory of bootstrap confirmation is a purely qualitative account of confirmation; it allows us to say that the evidence confirms a given theory, but not that it confirms the theory to a certain degree. The present paper extends Glymour’s theory to a quantitative account and investigates the resulting theory in some detail. It also considers the question how bootstrap confirmation relates to justification.