Beyond accuracy: Epistemic flaws with statistical generalizations
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Munton, J. (2019). Beyond accuracy: Epistemic flaws with statistical generalizations. Philosophical Issues, 29 (1), 228-240. https://doi.org/10.1111/phis.12150
What, if anything, is epistemically wrong with beliefs involving accurate statistical generalizations about demographic groups? This paper argues that there is a perfectly general, underappreciated epistemic flaw which affects both ethically charged and uncharged statistical generalizations. Though common to both, this flaw can also explain why demographic statistical generalizations give rise to the concerns they do. To identify this flaw, we need to distinguish between the accuracy and the projectability of statistical beliefs. Statistical beliefs are accompanied by an implicit representation of the statistic's modal profile. Their modal profile determines the circumstances in which they can legitimately be projected to unobserved instances. Errors in that implicit content can be compatible with the accuracy of the “bare” statistic, whilst systematically leading to downstream errors in reasoning, in a manner which reveals an epistemic flaw with an important aspect of the belief state itself.
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External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/phis.12150
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/299771
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