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James is polite and punctual (and useless): a Bayesian formalisation of faint praise

Harris, Adam J. L., Corner, Adam J. and Hahn, Ulrike 2013. James is polite and punctual (and useless): a Bayesian formalisation of faint praise. Thinking & Reasoning 19 (3-4) , pp. 414-429. 10.1080/13546783.2013.801367

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Abstract

“Damned by faint praise” is the phenomenon whereby weak positive information leads to a negative change in belief. This seemingly conflicts with normative Bayesian predictions, which prescribe that positive information should only exert a positive change in belief. We argue that the negative belief change is due to an inference from critical missing evidence; that is, an implicit argument from ignorance. Such an inference is readily incorporated within a version of Bayes’ theorem incorporating the concept of epistemic closure. This reformalisation provides a general theoretical framework for the phenomenon that clearly outlines those conditions under which it should be observed, and its conceptual relationship with other argumentation phenomena.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Belief revision, Bayesian probability, Argumentation, Persuasion, Testimony, Pragmatics
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1354-6783
Funders: ESRC
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2017 04:02
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/48237

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