The Weighing of Evidence

Hats off to Alex Baia and Alex Grzankowski for running a 5-day workshop that featured instructive sessions where professors presented current work, stimulating conversations with grad students and faculty, and enjoyable social events where the dialogue continued into the night. I also want to give props to the UT Philosophy Department. Many thanks to David Sosa, the faculty who participated in the workshop, and the many grad students who attended the sessions. The department was a gracious host and an encouraging place to think hard.


One of the presentations at the conference was Ernest Sosa on intuitions. I am somewhat of an intuition skeptic, but the way he outlined what an intuition is made it reasonable for me to believe there are such things as intellectual seemings. In a previous post, I mentioned the ambiguity of the term “weight” and how it, like other terms, is used loosely by the analytic community. I’d like to pick up on that thread and discuss the term as it relates to Sosa’s intuition project. Sosa identifies intuitions with seemings. A seeming is an attraction to assent (i.e. an attraction to affirm a proposition). Seemings come in two flavors: prima facie and ultima facie (or resultant). Seemings can conflict. Such is the case when one views a Muller-Lyer display and initially the lines seem incongruent. This prima facie seeming can conflict with the opposite seeming that the lines are in fact congruent.


Seemings can come by way of different sources. These sources might include testimony, empirical data, or intellectual data about what seems to be the case upon reflection. When there is a conflict between seemings, for example, that the Muller-Lyer lines are congruent and that they are incongruent the resultant seeming is determined by weighing the conflicting seemings. These conflicting seemings are weighed based on the sources of evidence that count in their favor. My question, then, is this:

  • Is the weighing of evidence for a seeming agent-relative? 

Put differently, is there no objective way to determine how an agent should resolve the conflict of seemings or take certain evidence to be decisive? Even if a person has measured the lines and been told that the seeming incongruence of the lines is an illusion it is plausible that if all evidence is agent-relative in terms of how it is weighed, then the person could still have a resultant seeming of the incongruence of the lines (because they weighed the perceptual prima facie seeming of incongruence heavily) despite the amount of strong evidence to the contrary. If weighing of seemings is strictly agent-relative (i.e. there is no objective way of ranking evidence or saying more evidence of a certain sort is better), then it looks as if there is no way to say the person has produced the wrong resultant seeming based on a mis-weighing of the evidence. Any ideas on how to objectively determine the weighing of evidence?

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