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Does Roush show that evidence should be probable?

By Damien Fennell and Nancy Cartwright

Abstract

This paper critically analyzes Sherrilyn Roush’s (Tracking truth: knowledge, evidence and science, 2005) definition of evidence and especially her powerful defence that in the ideal, a claim should be probable to be evidence for anything. We suggest that Roush treats not one sense of ‘evidence’ but three: relevance, leveraging and grounds for knowledge; and that different parts of her argument fare differently with respect to different senses. For relevance, we argue that probable evidence is sufficient but not necessary for Roush’s own two criteria of evidence to be met. With respect to grounds for knowledge, we agree that high probability evidence is indeed ideal for the central reason Roush gives: When believing a hypothesis on the basis of e it is desirable that e be probable. But we maintain that her further argument that Bayesians need probable evidence to warrant the method they recommend for belief revision rests on a mistaken interpretation of Bayesian conditionalization. Moreover, we argue that attempts to reconcile Roush’s arguments with Bayesianism fail. For leveraging, which we agree is a matter of great importance, the requirement that evidence be probable suffices for leveraging to the probability of the hypothesis if either one of Roush’s two criteria for evidence are met. Insisting on both then seems excessive. To finish, we show how evidence, as Roush defines it, can fail to track the hypothesis. This can remedied by adding a requirement that evidence be probable, suggesting another rationale for taking probable evidence as ideal - but only for a grounds-for-knowledge sense of evidence

Topics: Q Science (General), B Philosophy (General)
Publisher: Springer
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s11229-009-9510-3
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:29214
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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