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The Probable and The Provable$
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L. Jonathan Cohen

Print publication date: 1977

Print ISBN-13: 9780198244127

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198244127.001.0001

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An Epistemological Corollary

An Epistemological Corollary

Chapter:
(p.345) 24 An Epistemological Corollary
Source:
The Probable and The Provable
Author(s):

L. Jonathan Cohen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198244127.003.0025

This chapter begins by presenting the prevailing scepticism in the philosophy of science. If a fact that is provable beyond reasonable doubt is inductively certain, the legal assumption that proof beyond reasonable doubt is possible conflicts with the sceptical thesis that knowledge of general truths about the world is impossible. But if it is possible to know that one hypothesis is inductively more reliable than another, it is certainly possible to know also that a hypothesis is fully reliable. Prevalence of the sceptical error is due partly to unawareness of the systematic analogy between the structure of inductive support and the structure of logical truth, partly to a confusion between truth-conditions and justification-conditions, partly to an over-reaction to certain shattering events in the history of science, partly to the mistaken view that a correct assessment of how much one proposition supports another must be regarded as an analytic truth, and partly to the mistaken view that any inductive assessment presupposes certain untestable metaphysical assumptions. When all these points are borne in mind, it becomes clear that on issues of fact proof beyond reasonable doubt, and scientific knowledge, is at least in principle possible.

Keywords:   epistemological corollary, skepticism, philosophy of science, reasonable doubt, proof, inductive support, scientific knowledge

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