Tracking probabilistic truths: a logic for statistical learning
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonSynthese. 2021, 199, 9041–9087. 10.1007/s11229-021-03193-6
We propose a new model for forming and revising beliefs about unknown probabilities. To go beyond what is known with certainty and represent the agent’s beliefs about probability, we consider a plausibility map, associating to each possible distribution a plausibility ranking. Beliefs are defined as in Belief Revision Theory, in terms of truth in the most plausible worlds (or more generally, truth in all the worlds that are plausible enough). We consider two forms of conditioning or belief update, corresponding to the acquisition of two types of information: (1) learning observable evidence obtained by repeated sampling from the unknown distribution; and (2) learning higher-order information about the distribution. The first changes only the plausibility map (via a ‘plausibilistic’ version of Bayes’ Rule), but leaves the given set of possible distributions essentially unchanged; the second rules out some distributions, thus shrinking the set of possibilities, without changing their plausibility ordering.. We look at stability of beliefs under either of these types of learning, defining two related notions (safe belief and statistical knowledge), as well as a measure of the verisimilitude of a given plausibility model. We prove a number of convergence results, showing how our agent’s beliefs track the true probability after repeated sampling, and how she eventually gains in a sense (statistical) knowledge of that true probability. Finally, we sketch the contours of a dynamic doxastic logic for statistical learning.