Monday, 24 August 2020

Accuracy and explanation: thoughts on Douven

For a PDF of this post, see here.

Igor has eleven coins in his pocket. The first has 0% chance of landing heads, the second 10% chance, the third 20%, and so on up to the tenth, which has 90% chance, and the eleventh, which has 100% chance. He picks one out without letting me know which, and he starts to toss it. After the first 10 tosses, it has landed tails 5 times. How confident should I be that the coin is fair? That is, how confident should I be that it is the sixth coin from Igor's pocket; the one with 50% chance of landing heads? According to the Bayesian, the answer is calculated as follows:$$P_E(H_5) = P(H_5 | E) = \frac{P(H_5)P(E | H_5)}{\sum^{10}_{i=0} P(H_i) P(E|H_i)}$$where

  • $E$ is my evidence, which says that 5 out of 10 of the tosses landed heads,
  • $P_E$ is my new posterior updating credence upon learning the evidence $E$,
  • $P$ is my prior,
  • $H_i$ is the hypothesis that the coin has $\frac{i}{10}$ chance of landing heads,
  • $P(H_0) = \ldots = P(H_{10}) = \frac{1}{11}$, since I know nothing about which coin Igor pulled from his pocket, and
  • $P(E | H_i) = \left ( \frac{i}{10} \right )^5 \left (\frac{10-i}{10} \right )^5$, by the Principal Principle, and since each coin toss is independent of each other one.

So, upon learning that the coin landed heads five times out of ten, my posterior should be:$$P_E(H_5) = P(H_5 | E) = \frac{P(H_5)P(E | H_5)}{\sum^{10}_{i=0} P(H_i) P(E|H_i)} = \frac{\frac{1}{11} \left ( \frac{5}{10} \right )^5\left ( \frac{5}{10} \right )^5}{\sum^{10}_{i=1}\frac{1}{11} \left ( \frac{i}{10} \right )^5 \left (\frac{10-i}{10} \right )^5 } \approx 0.2707$$But some philosophers have suggested that this is too low. The Bayesian calculation takes into account how likely the hypothesis in question makes the evidence, as well as how likely I thought the hypothesis in the first place, but it doesn't take into account that the hypothesis explains the evidence. We'll call these philosophers explanationists. Upon learning that the coin landed heads five times out of ten, the explanationist says, we should be most confident in $H_5$, the hypothesis that the coin is fair, and the Bayesian calculation does indeed give this. But we should be most confident in part because $H_5$ best explains the evidence, and the Bayesian calculation takes no account of this.

Monday, 10 August 2020

The Accuracy Dominance Argument for Conditionalization without the Additivity assumption

 For a PDF of this post, see here.

Last week, I explained how you can give an accuracy dominance argument for Probabilism without assuming that your inaccuracy measures are additive -- that is, without assuming that the inaccuracy of a whole credence function is obtained by adding up the inaccuracy of all the individual credences that it assigns. The mathematical result behind that also allows us to give my chance dominance argument for the Principal Principle without assuming additivity, and ditto for my accuracy-based argument for linear pooling. In this post, I turn to another Bayesian norm, namely, Conditionalization. The first accuracy argument for this was given by Hilary Greaves and David Wallace, building on ideas developed by Graham Oddie. It was an expected accuracy argument, and it didn't assume additivity. More recently, Ray Briggs and I offered an accuracy dominance argument for the norm, and we did assume additivity. It's this latter argument I'd like to consider here. I'd like to show how it goes through even without assuming additivity. And indeed I'd like to generalise it at the same time. The generalisation is inspired by a recent paper by Michael Rescorla. In it, Rescorla notes that all the existing arguments for Conditionalization assume that, when your evidence comes in the form of a proposition learned with certainty, that proposition must be true. He then offers a Dutch Book argument for Conditionalization that doesn't make this assumption, and he issues a challenge for other sorts of arguments to do the same. Here, I take up that challenge. To do so, I will offer an argument for what I call the Weak Reflection Principle.

Weak Reflection Principle (WRP) Your current credence function should be a linear combination of the possible future credence functions that you endorse.

Friday, 7 August 2020

The Accuracy Dominance Argument for Probabilism without the Additivity assumption

For a PDF of this post, see here.

One of the central arguments in accuracy-first epistemology -- the one that gets the project off the ground, I think -- is the accuracy-dominance argument for Probabilism. This started life in a more pragmatic guise in de Finetti's proof that, if your credences are not probabilistic, there are alternatives that would lose less than yours would if they were penalised using the Brier score, which levies a price of $(1-x)^2$ on every credence $x$ in a truth and $x^2$ on every credence $x$ in a falsehood. This was then adapted to an accuracy-based argument by Roger Rosencrantz, where he interpreted the Brier score as a measure of inaccuracy, not a penalty score. Interpreted thus, de Finetti's result says that any non-probabilistic credences are accuracy-dominated by some probabilistic credences. Jim Joyce then noted that this argument only establishes Probabilism if you have a further argument that inaccuracy should be measured by the Brier score. He thought there was no particular reason to think that's right, so he greatly generalized de Finetti's result to show that, relative to a much wider range of inaccuracy measures, all non-probabilistic credences are accuracy dominated. One problem with this, which Al Hájek pointed out, was that he didn't give a converse argument -- that is, he didn't show that, for each of his inaccuracy measures, each probabilistic credence function is not accuracy dominated. Joel Predd and his Princeton collaborators then addressed this concern and proved a very general result, namely, that for any additive, continuous, and strictly proper inaccuracy measure, any non-probabilistic credences are accuracy-dominated, while no probabilistic credences are.