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Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 2, pp 527–551 | Cite as

Justification and the growth of error

  • Sherrilyn Roush
Article
  • 147 Downloads

Abstract

It is widely thought that in fallible reasoning potential error necessarily increases with every additional step, whether inferences or premises, in the same way that the probability of a lengthening conjunction shrinks. However, this has the absurd consequence that consulting an expert, proof-checking, filling gaps in proofs, and gathering more evidence for a given conclusion necessarily make us worse off, since they also add more steps. I will argue that the self-help steps listed here are of a distinctive type, involving composition rather than conjunction. Error grows differently over composition than over conjunction, I argue, and this dissolves the apparent paradox.

Keyword

Justification Growth of error Internalism Externalism Connection thesis Consulting experts Reliability Proof-checking Reliability-checking Double-checking Evidence Gap-free proof Total probability 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was supported in large part by NSF grant SES-0823418.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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