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Scepticism and Perceptual Justification$
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Dylan Dodd and Elia Zardini

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658343

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658343.001.0001

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The Arbitrariness of Belief*

The Arbitrariness of Belief*

Chapter:
(p.322) 15 The Arbitrariness of Belief*
Source:
Scepticism and Perceptual Justification
Author(s):

Martin Smith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658343.003.0015

In Knowledge and Lotteries, John Hawthorne offers a diagnosis of our unwillingness to believe, of a given lottery ticket, that it will lose a fair lottery—no matter how many tickets are involved. According to Hawthorne, it is natural to employ parity reasoning when thinking about lottery outcomes: Put roughly, to believe that a given ticket will lose, no matter how likely that is, is to make an arbitrary choice between alternatives that are perfectly balanced given one’s evidence. It’s natural to think that parity reasoning is only applicable to situations involving lotteries, dice, spinners, etc.—in short, situations in which we are reasoning about the outcomes of a putatively random process. As the chapter argues, however, there are reasons for thinking that parity reasoning can be applied to any proposition that is less than certain given one’s evidence. To see this, we need only remind ourselves of a kind of argument employed by John Pollock and Keith Lehrer in the 1980s. If this argument works, then believing any uncertain proposition, no matter how likely it is, involves a (covert) arbitrary or capricious choice—an idea that contains an obvious sceptical threat.

Keywords:   arbitrariness, evidential probability, infallibilism, justification, parity cases, parity reasoning

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