The rise and fall of accuracy-first epistemology

Logic, Probability and GamesFriday, October 31, 20144:00 pmRoom 2 (2nd floor) , Faculty House, Columbia University

Gregory Wheeler

The rise and fall of accuracy-first epistemology

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Accuracy-first epistemology aims to supply non-pragmatic justifications for a variety of epistemic norms. The contemporary roots of accuracy-first epistemology are found in Jim Joyce’s program to reinterpret de Finetti’s scoring-rule arguments in terms of a “purely epistemic” notion of “gradational accuracy.” On Joyce’s account, scoring rules are conceived to measure the accuracy of an agent’s belief state with respect to the true state of the world, and Joyce argues that this notion of accuracy is a purely epistemic good. Joyce’s non-pragmatic vindication of probabilism, then, is an argument to the effect that a measure of gradational accuracy so imagined satisfies conditions that are close enough to those necessary to run a de Finetti style coherence argument. A number of philosophers, including Hannes Leitgeb and Richard Pettigrew, have joined Joyce’s program and gone whole hog. Leitgeb and Pettigrew, for instance, have argued that Joyce’s arguments are too lax and have put forward conditions that narrowing down the class of admissible gradational accuracy functions, while Pettigrew and his collaborators have extended the list of epistemic norms receiving an accuracy-first treatment, a program that he calls Evidential Decision Theory.

In this talk I report on joint work with Conor Mayo-Wilson that aims to challenge the core assumption of Evidential Decision Theory, which is the very idea of supplying a truly non-pragmatic justification for anything resembling the Von Neumann and Morgenstern axioms for a numerical epistemic utility function. Indeed, we argue that none of axioms have a satisfactory non-pragmatic justification, and we point to reasons why to suspect that not all the axioms could be given a satisfactory non-pragmatic justification. Our argument, if sound, has ramifications for recent discussions of “pragmatic encroachment”, too. For if pragmatic encroachment is a debate to do with whether there is a pragmatic component to the justification condition of knowledge, our arguments may be viewed to attack the true belief condition of (fallibilist) accounts of knowledge.

Posted by on October 9th, 2014