A Conciliatory Answer to the Paradox of the Ravens

William PEDEN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


In the Paradox of the Ravens, a set of otherwise intuitive claims about evidence seems to be inconsistent. Most attempts at answering the paradox involve rejecting a member of the set, which seems to require a conflict either with commonsense intuitions or with some of our best confirmation theories. In contrast, I argue that the appearance of an inconsistency is misleading: ‘confirms’ and cognate terms feature a significant ambiguity when applied to universal generalisations. In particular, the claim that some evidence confirms a universal generalisation ordinarily suggests, in part, that the evidence confirms the reliability of predicting that something which satisfies the antecedent will also satisfy the consequent. I distinguish between the familiar relation of confirmation simpliciter and what I shall call ‘predictive confirmation’. I use them to formulate my answer, illustrate it in a very simple probabilistic model, and defend it against objections. I conclude that, once our evidential concepts are sufficiently clarified, there is no sense in which the initial claims are both plausible and inconsistent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-64
Number of pages20
JournalJournal for General Philosophy of Science
Issue number1
Early online date27 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Evidence
  • Inductive logic
  • Paradox of Confirmation
  • Paradox of the Ravens


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