Monday, June 02, 2014

It all depends on your priors

I think an argument can be good even when it isn't strong enough such that it ought to convince any unbiased person. An argument might provide some evidence for its conclusion, which might be sufficient or insufficient given someone's personal prior probabilities.

6 comments:

oozzielionel said...

RE: "given someone's personal prior probabilities"

The "probability" discussions (and even calculations) that I have seen appear to be "possibility" calculations based on world view assumptions (hard priors).

Hugo said...

"I think an argument can be good even when it isn't strong enough such that it ought to convince any unbiased person. An argument might provide some evidence for its conclusion, which might be sufficient or insufficient given someone's personal prior probabilities."

This strikes to me as completely irrational, yet a few commentators agreed with you on the other thread so it could just be that I am being too literal on the definition of 'unbiased'.

If an argument is not good enough to convinced any unbiased person, it implies that it can convince only biased people and some unbiased people. This makes the argument really weak as it is thus almost impossible to convince biased people from the other side of the argument.

I think the problem is that everyone is somewhat bias, having 'personal prior probabilities. Hence, I might actually agree with what you just said but it sounds badly phrased. It could be fixed by simply saying that an argument can be good even when it isn't strong enough to convince most people who are biased against its conclusion before hearing the argument.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Hugo,

I think VR's point is that that such an argument might not be enough to convince in the absence of other considerations.

An argument might be a useful part of a cumulative case for a conclusion ... Now if the the remainder of the cumulative case is weak, that doesn't mean that the argument in question isn't doing it's share of the work effectively.

Best,

Steve

Victor Reppert said...

The trouble with "unbiased persons" is that you have to go through town with a lantern in broad daylight to find one. Unless, of course, you find the ones who agree with me! :)

Dave Duffy said...

I agree, making an argument has some value of its own, especially when you make it under your real name. At least that is what you and John Loftus have in common.

However, I don't think it quite measures up to having a beer with the guys after work.

John W. Loftus said...

My response for your consideration.