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The Principal Principle does not imply the Principle of Indifference

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article numberaxx060
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Early online date4 Jul 2018
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 11 May 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 4 Jul 2018

Abstract

In a recent paper in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, James Hawthorne, Jürgen Landes, Christian Wallmann, and Jon Williamson (henceforth HLWW) argue that the Principal Principle entails the Principle of Indifference. In this paper, I argue that it does not. Lewis’ version of the Principal Principle notoriously depends on a notion of admissibility, which Lewis uses to restrict its application. HLWW do not give a precise account either, but they do appeal to two principles concerning admissibility, which they call Condition 1 and Condition 2. There are two ways of reading their argument, depending on how you understand the status of Conditions 1 and 2. Reading 1: The correct account of admissibility is determined independently of these two principles, and yet these two principles follow from that correct account. Reading 2: The correct account of admissibility is determined in part by these two principles, so that the principles follow from that account but only because the correct account is constrained so that it must satisfy them. HLWW then show that, given an account of admissibility on which Conditions 1 and 2 hold, the Principal Principle entails the Principle of Indifference. I will argue that, on either reading of the argument, it fails. I will argue that there is a plausible account of admissibility on which Conditions 1 and 2 are false. That defeats the first reading of the argument. I will then argue that the intuitions that lead us to assent to Condition 2 also lead us to assent to other very closely related principles that are inconsistent with Condition 2. This, I claim, casts doubt on the reliability of those intuitions, and thus removes our justification for Condition 2. This defeats the second reading of the HLWW argument. Thus, the argument fails.

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  • Centre for Science and Philosophy

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    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Oxford University Press at https://academic.oup.com/bjps/advance-article/doi/10.1093/bjps/axx060/4671056 . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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