Journal Article

Commutativity or Holism? A Dilemma for Conditionalizers

Jonathan Weisberg

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 4, pages 793-812
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online February 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axp007
Commutativity or Holism? A Dilemma for Conditionalizers

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Conditionalization and Jeffrey Conditionalization cannot simultaneously satisfy two widely held desiderata on rules for empirical learning. The first desideratum is confirmational holism, which says that the evidential import of an experience is always sensitive to our background assumptions. The second desideratum is commutativity, which says that the order in which one acquires evidence shouldn't affect what conclusions one draws, provided the same total evidence is gathered in the end. (Jeffrey) Conditionalization cannot satisfy either of these desiderata without violating the other. This is a surprising problem, and I offer a diagnosis of its source. I argue that (Jeffrey) Conditionalization is inherently anti-holistic in a way that is just exacerbated by the requirement of commutativity. The dilemma is thus a superficial manifestation of (Jeffrey) Conditionalization's fundamentally anti-holistic nature. 1

Introduction

2

Clarifying Commutativity and Holism

3

The Dilemma for Strict Conditionalization

4

The Dilemma for Jeffrey Conditionalization 4.1

Jeffrey conditionalization and commutativity

4.2

The tension with holism

4.3

Loose ends and technical worries

5

Diagnosis

6

Morals and Connections

Journal Article.  7563 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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