Rational Belief and the Common Cause Principle
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During the past decade, Wesley Salmon has successively refined and elaborated Reichenbach’s principle of the common cause, as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into statistical inference and explanation. Being as convinced as he of the central importance of the probabilistic concept of common cause, but skeptical of its universal applicability, I have corresponded with Salmon on this subject, and some of that correspondence has made an appearance in both our published writings.2 In this paper I shall try to state exactly what I think is the significance (especially the epistemological significance) of the principle and provide a new (I hope, improved) version of one line of argument in our correspondence. I should emphasize that this has been a very cooperative enterprise: my arguments always began in rather feeble, intuitive form and in answering them, Salmon would gently correct my mistakes, or restate the arguments in a stronger and more precise form than I had managed, and often add striking, concrete illustrations.
KeywordsHide Variable Rational Belief Knife Edge Cooperative Enterprise Bullet Fragment
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