What's wrong with our theories of evidence?

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Theoria (Spain), ISSN: 2171-679X, Vol: 29, Issue: 2, Page: 283-306

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Reiss, Julian
Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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This paper surveys and critically assesses existing theories of evidence with respect to four desiderata. A good theory of evidence should be both a theory of evidential support (i.e., be informative about what kinds of facts speak in favour of a hypothesis), and of warrant (i.e., be informative about how strongly a given set of facts speaks in favour of the hypothesis), it should apply to the non-ideal cases in which scientists typically find themselves, and it should be 'descriptively adequate', i.e., able to adequately represent typical episodes of evidentiary reasoning. The theories surveyed here-Bayesianism, hypotheticodeductivism, satisfaction theories, error statistics as well as Achinstein's and Cartwright's theories-are all found wanting in important respects. I finally argue that a deficiency all these theories have in common is a neglect or underplaying of the epistemic context in which the episode of evidentiary reasoning takes place.