Objective Evidence and Absence: Comment on Sober

Philosophical Studies, 143:91–100, 2009.

Abstract: Elliott Sober argues that the statistical slogan Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence cannot be taken literally: it must be interpreted charitably as claiming that the absence of evidence is (typically) not very much evidence of absence. I offer an alternative interpretation, on which the slogan claims that absence of evidence is (typically) not objective evidence of absence. I sketch a definition of objective evidence, founded in the notion of an epistemically objective likelihood, and I show that in Sober's paradigm case, the slogan can, on this understanding, be sustained.

Although a commentary, this paper contains the outlines of a more ambitious project, that of exploring the role of the notion of objectivity in confirmation theory and in science more generally.

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