Metaphysics and Epistemology Group (Tuesday - Week 6, HT24)

epistemology reading group

The Paradox of Confirmation (aka "The Paradox of the Ravens")  is based on the intuitive assumption that instances of general hypotheses confirm the hypotheses. E.g., a black raven confirms the hypothesis that all ravens are black. This assumption is known as Nicod's Condition (NC). The paradox stems from the fact that according to NC, a non-black non-raven (e.g., a white shoe) confirms the hypothesis that all the non-blacks are non-ravens, which is logically equivalent to the hypothesis that all ravens are black. Surprisingly, NC, or at least a plausible interpretation of it, turns out to be tightly connected to fundamental and sometimes still open questions in computer science and cryptography. Examining this connection shows not only that NC is most likely false, but also that it systematically fails in specific kinds of cases, and that the case of non-ravens is one of these cases. (The talk does not assume any special background in computer science or cryptography).

Metaphysics and Epistemology Group Convenors: Bernhard Salow, Nick Jones and Alex Kaiserman