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Probabilistic Accounts of Inferential Justification: Liberalism and Inference to the Best Explanation

Gates, Gregory E. (2011) Probabilistic Accounts of Inferential Justification: Liberalism and Inference to the Best Explanation. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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I argue for three main conclusions. First, we should adopt a "probability first" approach to epistemology, which takes facts about justification for outright belief to supervene on facts about rationally permissible credence distributions. Such an approach is plausible even though standard accounts that reduce belief to credence above a threshold or invariance in conditional preferences are vulnerable to intuitive counterexamples.Second, I argue that a dogmatist response to skepticism about inferential justification is false if we adopt a probability first approach. Dogmatists hold that we might gain justification to believe E -> H for the first time when we learn E (and nothing stronger). I show that only a dynamic Keynesian model is compatible with dogmatism about inferential justification. But the main virtue of the dynamic Keynesian model--it allows for learning about fundamental evidential relationships--is by no means unique to it. I conclude that a rationalist liberalism, which holds that we are independently justified in believing E -> H whenever we are inferentially justified in believing H on the basis of E, is the best anti-skeptical account of inferential justification on most probabilistic models.Finally, I argue that the compatibilist approach to the conflict between Bayesian conditionalization and inference to the best explanation (IBE) fails. However, we anyway need to impose constraints on rational credence other than conditionalization, and we should take explanatory considerations to constrain the rationally permissible prior credence distributions. I present an account of IBE such that we should give higher conditional prior credence to H, given E, when H is the most intellectually satisfying explanation of E, and defend this account against the objection that the subjectivity of intellectual satisfaction will lead to an unacceptably permissive epistemology.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gates, Gregory E.geg13@pitt.eduGEG13
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairGupta, Anilagupta@pitt.eduAGUPTA
Committee CoChairDorr,
Committee MemberAllen, Jamesjvallen@pitt.eduJVALLEN
Committee MemberWilson, Markmawilson@pitt.eduMAWILSON
Date: 27 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 9 August 2011
Approval Date: 27 September 2011
Submission Date: 13 August 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
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: Bayesian epistemology; dogmatism; epistemology; inference to the best explanation; inferential justification; rationalism
Other ID:, etd-08132011-145128
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:59
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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