Article

The Lottery and Preface Paradoxes

Igor Douven

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0196
The Lottery and Preface Paradoxes

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People speak about their own and other people’s beliefs both in categorical terms and in terms of degrees. Philosophers accordingly distinguished between an epistemology of belief and an epistemology of degrees of belief. A question that has intrigued many is how the two epistemologies are connected. A partial answer has been that the rationality of categorical beliefs supervenes on rationally held graded beliefs, in the sense that there cannot be a change in the former without there being some change in the latter, and where it is typically assumed that rationally held graded beliefs are representable by a probability function. Arguably, the simplest way to ensure this connection of supervenience is via a principle sometimes called the “Lockean thesis” (LT), which holds that it is rational to believe A if and only if it is rational to believe A to a degree above θ, where θ is some threshold value close to 1. While this thesis appears plausible on its face, it is beset by what are generally known as “the lottery paradox” and “the preface paradox.” These paradoxes rely on two principles, along with the Lockean thesis, namely, the “conjunction principle” (if it is rational to believe A and it is rational to believe B, then it is rational to believe A and B) and the “no contradictions principle” (it is never rational to believe an explicit contradiction). Many have remarked that, on their faces, the conjunction principle (CP) and the no contradictions principle (NCP) appear at least as plausible as the Lockean thesis. Which of the three principles is to be abandoned is a matter of continuing debate and controversy.

Article.  3559 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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