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Normality, Indifference and Induction: Themes in Epistemology and Logic

Fry, Joshua (2021) Normality, Indifference and Induction: Themes in Epistemology and Logic. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Contained in this dissertation are four essays on epistemology and logic. They are self-standing essays and can be read independently from one another. However, I think there are a few common themes that run throughout. Here I will briefly highlight one.

In the first chapter I discuss the principle of indifference: if a body of evidence E supports p no more than it supports q, and likewise E supports q no more than it supports p, then one's credence in p ought to be equal to one's credence in q. One feature of this principle is that it can be employed in the absence of any evidence regarding p and q. If one has no evidence bearing on p and q, then one's evidence supports them equally. Call principles like these 'something-from-nothing principles'. Something-from-nothing principles are evidential principles that govern rational credences and beliefs in cases where has a substantial lack of evidence and background information.

One theme in this dissertation is the idea that something-from-nothing principles are problematic. In the first chapter, I defend an argument that the principle of indifference is inconsistent, and I show that a similar something-from-nothing principle in the imprecise confidence model is problematic. In the second chapter I motivate and defend a no-rules theory of induction. Hume's `project the past into the future' is a something-from-nothing principle, and, focusing on Roger White's portrayal of this style of induction, I argue that the principle should be rejected.

Something-from-nothing principles principles are usually taken to be knowable a priori. If they are applicable in cases where one has no evidence or empirical knowledge relevant to the use of the principle, then one must be in a position to know that the principle is true in such cases. The general picture of evidential relations suggested by the no-rules account of induction defended in chapter 2 undermines the idea that evidential principles are knowable a priori. In chapter 3 and 4 I discuss normality theories of knowledge and justification and I claim that it is natural for normality theorists to find something-from-nothing principles problematic.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Fry, Joshuajpf36@pitt.edujpf36
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShaw, James
Committee MemberGallow, Dmitri
Committee MemberGupta, Anil
Committee MemberNorton, John
Date: 8 October 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 May 2021
Approval Date: 8 October 2021
Submission Date: 24 May 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 143
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: epistemology, epistemic logic, non-monotonic logic, induction
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 19:12
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2021 19:12


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