The Laws of Belief

The Laws of Belief : Ranking Theory and Its Philosophical Applications

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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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Product details

  • Paperback | 616 pages
  • 158 x 235 x 33mm | 880g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0198705859
  • 9780198705857
  • 1,598,189

Table of contents

Preface ; 1. Introduction ; 2. Belief and Its Objects ; 3. The Probabilistic Way ; 4. The Representation of Belief: Some Standard Moves ; 5. Ranking Functions ; 6. Reasons and Apriority ; 7. Conditional Independence and Ranking Nets ; 8. The Measurement of Ranks ; 9. Supposing, Updating, and Reflection ; 10. Ranks and Probabilities ; 11. Comparisons ; 12. Laws and Their Confirmation ; 13. Ceteris Paribus Conditions and Dispositions ; 14. Causation ; 15. Objectification ; 16. Justification, Perception, and Consciousness ; 17. The A Priori Structure of Reasons ; Bibliography ; Name Index ; Subject Index
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Review quote

In The Law of Belief, Wolfgang Spohn develops ranking theory in detail and applies it to a host of philosophical problems. The book has an extraordinary sweep, taking in many areas of metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science and even the philosophy of language. ... it is an extraordinary synthesis of decades of research and ... represents an important contribution to formal epistemology. * A. C. Paseau, Mind * Well written and carefully edited, the book is overall a rewarding and pleasurable read. Most importantly, perhaps, Spohns work conveys not doctrines but a refined theoretical framework that invites further application. * Frank Zenker, Lund University, Sweden, The Philosophical Quarterly *
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About Wolfgang Spohn

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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