Lauener Foundation for Analytical Philosophy


Wednesday 05 September - Thursday 06 September 2018
Bern, Switzerland

8th International Lauener Symposium on Analytical Philosophy
on Themes from Bas van Fraassen

Professor Nancy Cartwright

(Durham University)
(University of California, San Diego (UCSD))

The Argument Theory of Evidence: A Foundation for Voluntarism

Evidence is not a 2-placed relation, as is often represented in philosophy. It is (at least)  3-placed: e is evidence for h relative to a good argument that establishes the relevance of e to the truth of h. If rationality is going to compel belief in h from belief in e, this had better be a deductive argument, and with premises we are compelled to deem true. And what could compel belief in those premises? More evidence? And what argument compels belief in those and from what premises?  Here we encounter the usual difficulties that arise from the failure of ‘the given’ to be given.  We have no choice but to plump. This is not an unfamiliar conclusion and one long argued for by van Fraassen (as well as another hero of mine, Otto Neurath: Evidence does not confirm or disconfirm, it can only shake confidence). The point here is that rationality allows no alternative. Rationality dictates no belief in an empirical claim h without evidence (including the evidence of the senses). But there is no fact of the matter about what is and what is not evidence for h.  Plumping is unavoidable.

Professor Nancy          Cartwright

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