Entropy and Insufficient Reason: A Note on the Judy Benjamin Problem

Entropy and Insufficient Reason: A Note on the Judy Benjamin Problem Abstract One well-known objection to the principle of maximum entropy is the so-called Judy Benjamin problem, first introduced by van Fraassen ([1981]). The problem turns on the apparently puzzling fact that, on the basis of information relating an event’s conditional probability, the maximum entropy distribution will almost always assign to the event conditionalized on a probability strictly less than that assigned to it by the uniform distribution. In this paper, I present an analysis of the Judy Benjamin problem that can help to make sense of this seemingly odd feature of maximum entropy inference. My analysis is based on the claim that, in applying the principle of maximum entropy, Judy Benjamin is not acting out of a concern to maximize uncertainty in the face of new evidence, but is rather exercising a certain brand of epistemic charity towards her informant. This epistemic charity takes the form of an assumption on the part of Judy Benjamin that her informant’s evidential report leaves out no relevant information. Such a reconceptualization of the motives underlying Judy Benjamin’s appeal to the principle of maximum entropy can help to further our understanding of the true epistemological grounds of this principle and, in particular, can shed light on the nature of the relationship between the principle of maximum entropy and the Laplacean principle of insufficient reason. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Oxford University Press

Entropy and Insufficient Reason: A Note on the Judy Benjamin Problem

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0007-0882
eISSN
1464-3537
D.O.I.
10.1093/bjps/axy013
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract One well-known objection to the principle of maximum entropy is the so-called Judy Benjamin problem, first introduced by van Fraassen ([1981]). The problem turns on the apparently puzzling fact that, on the basis of information relating an event’s conditional probability, the maximum entropy distribution will almost always assign to the event conditionalized on a probability strictly less than that assigned to it by the uniform distribution. In this paper, I present an analysis of the Judy Benjamin problem that can help to make sense of this seemingly odd feature of maximum entropy inference. My analysis is based on the claim that, in applying the principle of maximum entropy, Judy Benjamin is not acting out of a concern to maximize uncertainty in the face of new evidence, but is rather exercising a certain brand of epistemic charity towards her informant. This epistemic charity takes the form of an assumption on the part of Judy Benjamin that her informant’s evidential report leaves out no relevant information. Such a reconceptualization of the motives underlying Judy Benjamin’s appeal to the principle of maximum entropy can help to further our understanding of the true epistemological grounds of this principle and, in particular, can shed light on the nature of the relationship between the principle of maximum entropy and the Laplacean principle of insufficient reason. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

The British Journal for the Philosophy of ScienceOxford University Press

Published: Jan 16, 2018

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