Evidence and Inference

ALEXANDER BIRD

Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)

Abstract

What is evidence? In this paper I shall consider the relationship between evidence and inference. I aim:
(a) To articulate a functional characterisation of the concept of evidence. In short, I propose that evidence is what allows us to make inferences that extend our knowledge.
(b) To show the inadequacies of an alternative characterisation according to which evidence is foundational, in the sense that our evidence supports inferences but is not itself inferred.
(c) To provide an indirect argument for my characterisation by showing that it entails Timothy Williamson’s claim that all and only knowledge is evidence, for which there is independent support.