The Problem of Coherence and Truth Redux
In “What price coherence?” (Analysis 54:129–132, 1994), Klein and Warfield put forward a simple argument that triggered an extensive debate on the epistemic virtues of coherence. As is well-known, this debate yielded far-reaching impossibility results to the effect that coherence is not conducive to truth, even if construed in a ceteris paribus sense. A large part of the present paper is devoted to a re-evaluation of these results. As is argued, all explications of truth-conduciveness leave out an important aspect: while it might not be the case that coherence is truth-conducive, it might be conducive to verisimilitude or epistemic utility. Unfortunately, it is shown that the answer for both these issues must be in the negative, again. Furthermore, we shift the focus from sets of beliefs to particular beliefs: as is shown, neither is any of the extant probabilistic measures of coherence truth-conducive on the level of particular beliefs, nor does weakening these measures to quasi-orderings establish the link between coherence and truth for an important amount of measures. All in all, the results in this paper cast a serious doubt on the approach of establishing a link between coherence and truth. Finally, recent arguments that shift the focus from the relationship between coherence and truth to the one between coherence and confirmation are assessed.
I would like to thank Jakob Koscholke and the anonymous reviewers for providing me with valuable comments and suggestions that helped to improve the paper. This work was supported by Grant SI1731/-1 to Mark Siebel from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) as part of the priority program New Frameworks of Rationality (SPP 1516).
- BonJour, L. (1985). The structure of empirical knowledge. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- BonJour, L. (1999). The dialectic of foundationalism and coherentism. In J. Greco & E. Sosa (Eds.), The blackwell guide to epistemology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Bovens, L., & Hartmann, S. (2003). Bayesian epistemology. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Brössel, P. (2015). Keynes’s coefficient of dependence. Erkenntnis. doi: 10.1007/s10670-014-9672-3.
- Carnap, R. (1962). Logical foundations of probability. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Cevolani, G., Crupi, V., & Festa, R. (2010). The whole truth about Linda: Probability, verisimilitude and a paradox of conjunction. In M. D’Agostino, et al. (Eds.), New essays in logic and philosophy of science (pp. 603–615). London: College Publications.Google Scholar
- Fitelson, B. (2004). Two technical corrections to my coherence measure. http://www.fitelson.org/coherence2.
- Glass, D. H. (2002). Coherence, explanation, and Bayesian networks. In M. ONeill, et al. (Eds.), AICS 2002, LNAI 2464 (pp. 177–182), Berlin.Google Scholar
- Harman, G. (1986). Change in view. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Hartmann, S. (2008). Modeling in philosophy of science. In M. Frauchiger & W. K. Essler (Eds.), Representation, evidence, and justification: Themes from Suppes (Lauener Library of Analytical Philosophy, vol. 1) (pp. 95–121). Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.Google Scholar
- Howson, C., & Urbach, P. (2006). Scientific reasoning. The Bayesian approach (3rd ed.). Chicago: Open Court.Google Scholar
- Keynes, J. M. (1921). A treatise on probability. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Koscholke, J. (2015). Last measure standing. Evaluating test cases for probabilistic coherence measures. Erkenntnis. doi: 10.1007/s10670-015-9734-1.
- Levi, I. (1967). Gambling with truth. New York: A. A. Knopf.Google Scholar
- Meijs, W. (2005). Probabilistic measures of coherence. PhD thesis, Erasmus University, Rotterdam.Google Scholar
- Mortimer, H. (1988). The logic of induction. Paramus: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Nozick, R. (1981). Philosophical Explanations. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
- Pearl, J. (2000). Causality: Models, reasoning, and inference. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Popper, K. R. (1963). Conjectures and refutations. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Popper, K. R. (1968). The logic of scientific discovery. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Schippers, M. (2014d). On the impossibility of measuring coherence. Manuscript.Google Scholar
- Schippers, M. (2015b). Coherence and (likeness to) truth. In Mäki, Ruphy, Schurz & Votsis (Eds.), Recent developments in the philosophy of science: EPSA13 Helsinki.Google Scholar
- Schurz, G., & Weingartner, P. (1987). Verisimilitude defined by relevant consequence elements. In T. Kuipers (Ed.), What is closer-to-the-truth? (pp. 47–77). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar