A Probabilistic Critique of Evidentialism
Evidentialism holds that all epistemic justification derives from evidence. This thesis can apparently be refuted from the following three premises: (1) e is evidence for h only if the epistemic probability of h given e is higher than the prior probability of h; (2) epistemic probability satisfies the axioms of mathematical probability theory; (3) a proposition is epistemically justified whenever it is sufficiently probable. Given any threshold for “sufficiently probable” and any coherent probability distribution, some propositions must have a sufficiently high prior probability to count as justified. Given premise (1), this prior probability is not itself evidence for the proposition in question, nor does it reflect evidence for the proposition, nor do the facts explaining the high prior probability constitute evidence for the proposition. Hence, it represents a form of non-evidential epistemic justification.
KeywordsEpistemic probability Evidence Prior probability Propositional justification Non-evidential epistemic justification
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