How much evidence should one collect?

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Abstract

A number of philosophers of science and statisticians have attempted to justify conclusions drawn from a finite sequence of evidence by appealing to results about what happens if the length of that sequence tends to infinity. If their justifications are to be successful, they need to rely on the finite sequence being either indefinitely increasing or of a large size. These assumptions are often not met in practice. This paper analyzes a simple model of collecting evidence and finds that the practice of collecting only very small sets of evidence before taking a question to be settled is rationally justified. This shows that the appeal to long run results can be used neither to explain the success of actual scientific practice nor to give a rational reconstruction of that practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2299-2313
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Volume172
Issue number9
Early online date14-Nov-2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Philosophy of science
  • Evidence
  • Rational choice
  • Formal epistemology
  • Bayesian epistemology
  • Sequential decision problems
  • OPTIMALITY

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