Rescher’s Theory of Plausible Reasoning
One of the most useful tasks that philosophers can perform is to shake intellectual prejudices, and one of the strongest and most deep-rooted prejudices in contemporary intellectual culture is obsessive Pascalianism — the assumption that every rational judgement made in the absence of complete information must conform in one way or another to the classical calculus of probability. But it is never sufficient, either in philosophy or in science, to argue that certain problems resist satisfactory solution by the accepted theory. An alternative theory must also be proposed that will generate the desired solutions. Nick Rescher has therefore done well to produce not only some considerations that count against a probabilistic or Pascalian treatment of certain issues but also an alternative treatment of these issues, which he calls a theory of “plausible” reasoning. The credit due to him for having produced one such non-Pascalian theory will remain, even if, as I shall argue, its range of legitimate application is somewhat less extensive than Rescher claims on its behalf.
KeywordsPlausible Reasoning Epistemic Modality Rational Judgement Natural Uniformity Inductive Reliability
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