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Coherence and Confirmation through Causation

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2013, 00:00 by Gregory Wheeler, Richard ScheinesRichard Scheines

Coherentism maintains that coherent beliefs are more likely to be true than incoherent beliefs, and that coherent evidence provides more confirmation of a hypothesis when the evidence is made coherent by the explanation provided by that hypothesis. Although probabilistic models of credence ought to be well-suited to justifying such claims, negative results from Bayesian epistemology have suggested otherwise. In this essay we argue that the connection between coherence and confirmation should be understood as a relation mediated by the causal relationships among the evidence and a hypothesis, and we offer a framework for doing so by fitting together probabilistic models of coherence, confirmation, and causation. We show that the causal structure among the evidence and hypothesis is sometimes enough to determine whether the coherence of the evidence boosts confirmation of the hypothesis, makes no difference to it, or even reduces it. We also show that, ceteris paribus, it is not the coherence of the evidence that boosts confirmation, but rather the ratio of the coherence of the evidence to the coherence of the evidence conditional on a hypothesis.

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© Wheeler and Scheines 2013 This is an electronic version of an article published by Oxford University Press. The version of record is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzt019

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01/01/2013

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