Resolving the Bayesian Problem of Idealization

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Jones, Nicholaos
conference paper description
In "Bayesian Confirmation of Theories that Incorporate Idealizations", Michael Shaffer argues that, in order to show how idealized hypotheses can be confirmed, Bayesians must develop a coherent proposal for how to assign prior probabilities to counterfactual conditionals. This paper develops a Bayesian reply to Shaffer's challenge that avoids the issue of how to assign prior probabilities to counterfactuals by treating idealized hypotheses as abstract descriptions. The reply allows Bayesians to assign non-zero degrees of confirmation to idealized hypotheses and to capture the intuition that less idealized hypotheses tend to be better confirmed than their more idealized counterparts.