The Selective Confirmation Answer to the Paradox of the Ravens

William PEDEN*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Philosophers such as Goodman (1954), Scheffler (1963) and Glymour (1983) aim to answer the Paradox of the Ravens by distinguishing between confirmation simpliciter and selective confirmation. The latter evidential relation occurs when data not only confirms a hypothesis, but also disconfirms one of its ‘rival’ hypotheses. The appearance of paradox is allegedly due to a conflation of valid intuitions about selective confirmation with our intuitions about confirmation simpliciter. Theories of evidence, like the standard Bayesian analysis, should only be understood as explications of confirmation simpliciter; when we disambiguate between selective confirmation and confirmation simpliciter, there is no longer a paradox from these theories. Bandyopadhyay and Brittan (2006) have revived this answer within a sophisticated Bayesian analysis of confirmation and severe testing. I argue that, despite the attractive features of the Selective Confirmation Answer, there is no analysis of this evidential relation that satisfactorily answers the Paradox of the Ravens, and the prospects for any answer along these lines are bleak. We must look elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-193
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Studies in the Philosophy of Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

I have greatly benefited from feedback from Julian Reiss, Nancy Cartwright, Rune Nyrup, Wendy Parker, Donal Khosrowi, Erin Nash, Richard Williams, and everyone at the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society at Durham University.


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