The Laws of Belief: Ranking Theory and Its Philosophical Applications

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OUP Oxford, Mar 29, 2012 - Philosophy - 598 pages
Wolfgang Spohn presents the first full account of the dynamic laws of belief, by means of ranking theory. This book is his long-awaited presentation of ranking theory and its ramifications. He motivates and introduces the basic notion of a ranking function, which recognises degrees of belief and at the same time accounts for belief simpliciter. He provides a measurement theory for ranking functions, accounts for auto-epistemology in ranking-theoretic terms, and explicates the basic notion of a (deductive or non-deductive) reason. The rich philosophical applications of Spohn's theory include: a new account of lawlikeness, an account of ceteris paribus laws, a new perspective on dispositions, a rich and detailed theory of deterministic causation, an understanding of natural modalities as an objectification of epistemic modalities, an account of the experiential basis of belief—and thus a restructuring of the debate on foundationalism and coherentism (and externalism and contextualism)—and, finally, a revival of fundamental a priori principles of reason fathoming the basics of empiricism and the relation between reason and truth, and concluding in a proof of a weak principle of causality. All this is accompanied by thorough comparative discussions, on a general level as well as within each topic, and in particular with respect to probability theory.
 

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Contents

1 Introduction
1
2 Belief and its Objects
16
3 The Probabilistic Way
32
Some Standard Moves
47
5 Ranking Functions
65
6 Reasons and Apriority
104
7 Conditional Independence and Ranking Nets
125
8 The Measurement of Ranks
162
12 Laws and their Confirmation
271
13 Ceteris Paribus Conditions and Dispositions
304
14 Causation
338
15 Objectification
442
16 Justification Perception and Consciousness
472
17 The A Priori Structure of Reasons
521
Bibliography
556
Name Index
581

9 Supposing Updating and Reflection
185
10 Ranks and Probabilities
200
11 Comparisons
225

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About the author (2012)


Wolfgang Spohn studied philosophy, logic/philosophy of science, and mathematics at the University of Munich. He has held positions at the University of Regensburg (1986-91) and the University of Bielefeld (1991-96), and has held a chair in philosophy and philosophy of science at the University of Konstanz since 1996. He is author of three books and over eighty papers, and editor of the journal Erkenntnis.

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