In This Article The Evidential Support Relation In Epistemology

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • The Relata of the Evidential Support Relation
  • The Structure of the Evidential Support Relation
  • Probabilistic Accounts of Evidential Support
  • Evidential Support and Epistemic Principles
  • Explanationist Accounts of Evidential Support
  • Causal and Counterfactual Accounts of Evidential Support
  • Evidential Support and Higher-Level Attitudes or Awarenesses

Philosophy The Evidential Support Relation In Epistemology
by
Ryan Byerly
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 December 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0189

Introduction

Just when does a person’s evidence support a proposition? This question is at the heart of influential evidentialist views in epistemology, which suggest that at least some epistemically valuable properties are determined by the relationship between the object of the agent’s attitudes and her evidence. When the agent adopts an attitude of belief toward some proposition, evidentialists will say that some epistemically valuable property attaches to that belief just in case the proposition believed is supported by the agent’s evidence and her belief is properly based on this evidence. A question similar to the one asked above, concerning when evidence confirms a theory, has been discussed in the philosophy of science literature, but it is not immediately obvious that the notion of evidential support at work in epistemology is the same as that at work in the philosophy of science. The focus of this bibliography is on debates concerning the nature of the evidential support relation as it appears in epistemology, with a special focus on its appearance in evidentialist views. Among the works surveyed are those devoted to the roles the evidential support relation may play in epistemology (in both evidentialist and nonevidentialist theories), those concerning the relata of the relation, those concerning the structure of the relation, and those bearing on the analysis or partial analysis of the relation. Where appropriate, as in the section Probabilistic Accounts of Evidential Support, literature from the philosophy of science concerning the evidential support or confirmation of theories will be surveyed as well.

Reference Works

General overviews, textbooks, and reference works on the topic of evidential support in epistemology are lacking. This is in part because discussion of the topic is at a nascent stage. However, there are some reference works dedicated to closely related areas which can help acquaint the reader with the topic and which highlight its importance. Among these are works dedicated to the viability of evidentialist views in epistemology, works dedicated to the nature of evidence, and works dedicated to the role of evidence in theory confirmation. In the former category are Plantinga 1998, Feldman 1992, and Mittag 2004; in the second category are Kelley 2006 and DiFate 2007; and in the final category are Hawthorne 2011 and Kuipers 1998.

  • DiFate, Victor. “Evidence.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. 2007.

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    Includes a large section on the evidential relation, mainly devoted to the relation in philosophy of science.

  • Feldman, Richard. “Evidence.” In A Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa, 349–351. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Reference, 1992.

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    Includes a subsection on evidential support which emphasizes the difficulty of stating precise conditions under which evidence supports a proposition.

  • Hawthorne, James. “Inductive Logic.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2011.

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    Discusses evidential support in the context of inductive logic.

  • Kelley, Thomas. “Evidence.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2006.

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    This article is especially helpful for distinguishing evidence and evidential support in epistemology from evidence and evidential support in the philosophy of science.

  • Kuipers, Theo. “Confirmation Theory.” In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 2. Edited by Edward Craig. London: Routledge, 1998.

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    Includes a short section on applications of confirmation theory including applications to epistemology. Available online by subscription.

  • Mittag, Daniel. “Evidentialism.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. 2004.

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    Includes a short section on support, discussing contextualist views of support and degrees of support.

  • Plantinga, Alvin. “Religion and Epistemology.” In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 8. Edited by Edward Craig London: Routledge, 1998.

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    Discusses evidentialism and evidential support in the context of religious epistemology. Offers an argument-based characterization of evidentialism and a probabilistic account of support (following Locke). Available online by subscription.

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