The Stability of Belief: How Rational Belief Coheres with Probability

ISBN : 9780198732631

Hannes Leitgeb
368 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2017
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In everyday life we normally express our beliefs in all-or-nothing terms: I believe it is going to rain; I don't believe that my lottery ticket will win. In other cases, if possible, we resort to numerical probabilities: my degree of belief that it is going to rain is 80%; the probability that I assign to my ticket winning is one in a million. It is an open philosophical question how all-or-nothing belief and numerical belief relate to each other, and how we ought to reason with them simultaneously. The Stability of Belief develops a theory of rational belief that aims to answer this question by building new bridges between logic and probability theory, traditional and mathematical epistemology, and theoretical and practical rationality. Hannes Leitgeb develops a joint normative theory of all-or-nothing belief and numerical degrees of belief. While rational all-or-nothing belief is studied in traditional epistemology and is usually assumed to obey logical norms, rational degrees of belief constitute the subject matter of Bayesian epistemology and are normally taken to conform to probabilistic norms. One of the central open questions in formal epistemology is what beliefs and degrees of belief have to be like in order for them to cohere with each other. The answer defended in this book is a stability account of belief: a rational agent believes a proposition just in case the agent assigns a stably high degree of belief to it. Leitgeb determines this theory's consequences for, and applications to, learning, suppositional reasoning, decision-making, assertion, acceptance, conditionals, and chance. The volume builds new bridges between logic and probability theory, traditional and formal epistemology, theoretical and practical rationality, and synchronic and diachronic norms for reasoning.


1 Introduction

A. The Review Argument
2 The Humean Thesis on Belief

B. Where Does Stability Come From?
3 Logical Closure and the Lockean Thesis
4 Conditional Belief and Belief Dynamics

C. Does Rational Belief Reduce to Probability?
5 Stability and Epistemic Decision Theory
6 Action, Assertability, Acceptance

D. On Counterfactuals and Chance

About the author: 

Hannes Leitgeb completed PhDs in mathematics and philosophy, both at the University of Salzburg, where he also worked as an Assistant Professor in philosophy. In 2003 he received an Erwin-Schroedinger Fellowship from the Austrian Research Fund on the basis of which he did research at Stanford University. In 2005 he took up a Readership at the University of Bristol, where in 2007 he became Professor of Mathematical Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics. In 2010 he founded the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at LMU Munich where he is holding the Chair of Logic and Philosophy of Language. He was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize by the Leverhulme Trust, and a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award and an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Erkenntnis.

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