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What Has Probability to do with Strength of Belief

  • L. Jonathan Cohen
Chapter
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 56)

Abstract

There is an old dispute in Western philosophy about whether the human mind is active or passive in the process of acquiring knowledge concerning the facts and laws of Nature. According to Descartes we articulate such knowledge in voluntary judgements whereby we either assent to or dissent from some relevant mental representation. Thus each item of conscious knowledge is gained by an act of free-will. But according to Hume we learn about Nature via the formation of beliefs and-on his view-a person’s beliefs are not controllable by his will. In other words on Hume’s view our knowledge of nature is not acquired by voluntary acts of cognitive judgement, as Descartes held, but by the involuntary growth of cognitive feelings.

Keywords

Subjective Probability Personalist Conception Conscious Knowledge Personal Probability Deductive Consequence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    F.P. Ramsey, The Foundations of Mathematics, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1931, p. 166ff.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    B. de Finetti, Theory of Probability: A Critical and Introductory Treatment, trans. A. Machi and A. Smith, London: John Wiley, 1974, p. 3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    C. Howson and P. Urbach, Scientific Reasoning: The Bayesian Approach, La Salle: Hlinois, 1989, p.56ff.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    E.g. H. Kyburg, ‘Rational Belief’, The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 6, 1983, p. 236.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    E.g. H. Kyburg, ‘Rational Belief’, The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 6, 1983. p. 173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    E.g. A. Einstein and L. Infeld, The Evolution of Physics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938, p. 224.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    B. van Fraassen, ‘Belief and the Will’, Journal of Philosophy 81, 1984, pp. 235–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    L.J. Cohen, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Induction and Probability, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989, pp. 40–114.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Jonathan Cohen
    • 1
  1. 1.Queen’s CollegeLondonUK

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