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A Tool-Based View of Theories of Evidence

HUANG, CHIEN-YANG (2020) A Tool-Based View of Theories of Evidence. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Philosophical theories of evidence have been on offer, but they are mostly evaluated in terms of all-or-none desiderata — if they fail to meet one of the desiderata, they are not a satisfactory theory. In this thesis, I aim to accomplish three missions. Firstly, I construct a new way of evaluating theories of evidence, which I call a tool-based view. Secondly, I analyse the nature of what I will call the various relevance-mediating vehicles that each theory of evidence employs. Thirdly, I articulate the comparative core of evidential reasoning in the historical sciences, one which is overlooked in major theories of evidence.

On the first mission, I endorse a meta-thesis of pluralism on theories of evidence, namely a tool-based view. I regard a theory of evidence as a purpose-specific and setting-sensitive tool which has its own strengths, difficulties and limitations. Among the major theories of evidence I have reviewed, I focus on Achinstein’s explanationist theory, Cartwright’s argument theory and Reiss’s inferentialist account, scrutinising and evaluating them against the purposes they set out and the scope of their applications.

On the second mission, I note that there is no such thing as intrinsically ‘being evidence’. Rather, I hold that relevance-mediating vehicles configure data, materials or claims in such ways that some of them are labelled evidence. I identify the relevance-mediating vehicles that the theories of evidence employ.

On the final mission, I argue that the likelihoodist account is an appropriate tool for explaining the evidential reasoning in poorly specified settings where likelihoods can be only imprecisely compared. Such settings, I believe, are typical in the historical sciences. Using the reconstruction of proto-sounds in historical linguistics as a case study, I formalise the rationale behind it by means of the law of likelihood.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Induction; Hypothetico-Deductivism; Bayesianism; Likelihoodism; RCTs; Historical Linguistics; Peter Achinstein; Nancy Cartwright; Julian Reiss; Philosophy of Science
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Jun 2020 12:59

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