Is strict coherence coherent?

Alan Hájek*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Bayesians have a seemingly attractive account of rational credal states in terms of coherence. An agent's set of credences (degrees of belief) are synchronically coherent just in case they conform to the probability calculus. Some Bayesians impose a further putative coherence constraint called regularity: roughly, if X is possible, then it is assigned positive probability. I look at two versions of regularity - logical and metaphysical - and I canvass various defences of it as a rationality norm. Combining regularity with synchronic coherence, we have a set of constraints known as strict coherence. I argue that strict coherence is untenable. In particular, I attack regularity as a rationality norm. First, I rebut each of the various defences of regularity. Then I argue directly against regularity: it conflicts with the Bayesian decision-theoretic treatment of rational action. Thus, seemingly plausible theoretical and pragmatic norms turn out to be inconsistent. [Barbossa is about to kill Will, but Jack Sparrow shows up:] Barbossa: It's not possible! Jack: Not probable. (Pirates of the Caribbean) To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous. (Chinese proverb)

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)411-424
    Number of pages14
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


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