Reasons for (prior) belief in Bayesian epistemology

Abstract

Bayesian epistemology tells us with great precision how we should move from prior to posterior beliefs in light of new evidence or information, but says little about where our prior beliefs come from. It offers few resources to describe some prior beliefs as rational or well-justified, and others as irrational or unreasonable. A different strand of epistemology takes the central epistemological question to be not how to change one’s beliefs in light of new evidence, but what reasons justify a given set of beliefs in the first place. We offer an account of rational belief formation that closes some of the gap between Bayesianism and its reason-based alternative, formalizing the idea that an agent can have reasons for his or her (prior) beliefs, in addition to evidence or information in the ordinary Bayesian sense. Our analysis of reasons for belief is part of a larger programme of research on the role of reasons in rational agency (Dietrich and List, Nous, 2012a, in press; Int J Game Theory, 2012b, in press).

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Correspondence to Christian List.

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Dietrich, F., List, C. Reasons for (prior) belief in Bayesian epistemology. Synthese 190, 787–808 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-012-0224-6

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Keywords

  • Bayesian epistemology
  • Doxastic reasons
  • Prior and posterior beliefs
  • Principle of insufficient reason
  • Belief formation
  • Belief change