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Reflections on reflection: Van Fraassen on belief

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In ‘Belief and the Will’, van Fraassen employed a diachronic Dutch Book argument to support a counterintuitive principle called Reflection. There and subsequently van Fraassen has put forth Reflection as a linchpin for his views in epistemology and the philosophy of science, and for the voluntarism (first-person reports of subjective probability are undertakings of commitments) that he espouses as an alternative to descriptivism (first-person reports of subjective probability are merely self-descriptions). Christensen and others have attacked Reflection, taking it to have unpalatable consequences. We prescind from the question of the cogency of diachronic Dutch Book arguments, and focus on Reflection's proper interpretation. We argue that Reflection is not as counterintuitive as it appears — that once interpreted properly the status of the counterexamples given by Christensen and others is left open. We show also that descriptivism can make sense of Reflection, while voluntarism is not especially well suited to do so.

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We are grateful to Nuel Belnap, Cristina Bicchieri, Susan Sterrett, Richmond Thomason, Michael Thompson, and two anonymous referees for useful discussion. For any errors that may remain, each of us blames the other guy.

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Green, M.S., Hitchcock, C.R. Reflections on reflection: Van Fraassen on belief. Synthese 98, 297–324 (1994).

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  • Subjective Probability
  • Proper Interpretation
  • Dutch Book
  • Leave Open
  • Dutch Book Argument