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Towards a pluralistic view of formal methods

Kuan, Ko-Hung (2020) Towards a pluralistic view of formal methods. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004249


This thesis is a collection of three self-contained papers on related themes in the area of formal and social epistemology. The first paper explores the possibility of measuring the coherence of a set with multiplicative averaging. It has been pointed out that all the existing probabilistic measures of coherence are flawed for taking the relevance between a set of propositions as the primary factor which determines the coherence of the set. What I show in this paper is that a group of measures, namely the confirmation-based ones, can be saved from this problem if we adopt a nonlinear averaging function to measure the coherence of a set. The second paper discusses how people should conciliate in disagreements. Some epistemologists take linear averaging as the only way of conciliating and claim that conciliating leads to fallacious results. In the paper, I show that the problem is not conciliating, but taking linear averaging as the only way to conciliate. Since there is no reason for us to insist on conciliating with linear averaging, we can adopt nonlinear averaging functions for conciliating and thereby avoid the formal deficiencies. The third paper focuses on the pragmatic results of taking conciliating as a general strategy in disagreements. There is a potential dilemma about conciliating: if everyone always conciliates, it is likely for an epistemic bubble to arise. If everyone refuses to conciliate, an epistemic echo chamber may appear. A possible way of solving the dilemma is to develop a diachronic strategy which tells people how to both conciliate and update their estimate of their interlocutors’ reliability. Although the three papers differ in the subject, they jointly offer some unifying reflections on the way we approach philosophical problems with formal tools. From 5 the first two papers, we see that a formal analysis of a philosophical position is incomplete if philosophers fail to consider a sufficiently wide range of formal tools. The third paper, on the contrary, shows that we should change the ordinary way of modelling a notion if required. This thesis concludes by proposing a pluralistic view of formal methods in formal epistemology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Ko-Hung Kuan
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Mahtani, Anna and List, Christian

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