Statistics and suspension

Abstract

It has recently been argued that some cases of naked statistical evidence license a high credence, but not an outright belief. If this is correct, there cannot be an unconditional bridge principle from credence to outright belief. We show that at least one prominent putative counterexample to such a bridge principle is based on a mistake, by demonstrating that the statistical evidence falls short not only of licensing rational belief, but also of justifying a high credence.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Of course, the Lockean thesis, at least in an unmodified version, seems to be untenable also for reasons beyond those discussed here: it is threatened by the notorious lottery and preface paradoxes. Furthermore, nothing we say depends on whether we understand the bridge principle as a normative principle or a constitutive one according to which sufficiently high credence just is outright belief.

  2. 2.

    See Jackson (2018) for a discussion of further types of evidence (such as evidence from lottery cases or hedged assertions) that are said to affect our credence more than our beliefs.

  3. 3.

    In Buchak’s original case, men are 10 times more likely than women to steal iPhones. We changed the numbers for ease of presentation, and chose to speak of mobile phones in general. To avoid any misunderstanding: we understand the statistical evidence in Buchak’s case as saying that x% of women are phone thieves and 9x% of men are phone thieves (for some x with 0 < x ≤ 11 1/9). We assume that someone is a phone thief iff, roughly put, s/he seizes every opportunity for stealing phones.

  4. 4.

    The statistical evidence that exactly 90% of the lottery tickets are losing tickets might well justify a credence of 0.9 in the proposition that your ticket is a losing ticket. After all, your ticket was drawn randomly from the set of all tickets. Therefore, the set of all tickets seems to be a relevant reference class. Arguably, analogous considerations hold, say, for the bus case (also discussed by Buchak 2014) or the prisoner’s case. For a survey of such cases, see Gardiner (2018). We remain neutral on the additional question of whether outright belief is justified in these further cases.

References

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Correspondence to Alexandra Zinke.

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Freitag, W., Zinke, A. Statistics and suspension. Philos Stud 177, 2877–2880 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-019-01344-7

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Keywords

  • Statistical evidence
  • Credence
  • Lockean thesis