Thu Oct 31, 2019
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
|Graduate Research Colloquium
Russell Ahmed-Buehler (UC Berkeley)
A Logical Account of Confirmation
Doctors, scientists, and even philosophers routinely speak of a claim being well confirmed or likely in light of particular evidence. Scientific theories are a canonical example but a host of mundane claims about the world—“all emeralds are green”, “the sun will rise tomorrow”, “vegetables are good for you”—serve just as well. Common practice thus suggests room for a theory of confirmation in which some claims are objectively better confirmed, more likely, or more probable than others. Explicit attempts to provide an account of confirmation dominated philosophy of science for the first half of the 20th century. This program eventually collapsed in the face of protracted criticism and the apparent success of the subjective probability account of rational credence.
In this talk, I’ll first argue that classic justifications for the subjective probability account beg the question in favor of the probability formalism. In particular, classic justifications assume either that rational credences are real-valued or that rational credences satisfy properties characteristic of real numbers, viz. comparability and the Archimedean property. Second, I’ll show that giving up these assumptions allows for an account of confirmation that evades prominent objections to confirmation, in particular the charge of language relativity and Bertrand’s paradox.