In each of the following, several epistemic reasons are given to believe something. Which is the strongest reason? What makes it stronger?
a. John, Susan, and Terry all believe that the bank robber was a male. John was there during the robbery and saw the robber. Susan read about the robbery in the newspaper. Susan told Terry about the robbery.
b. John and Susan both believe that the acid caused the chemical reaction. John read in a textbook about the likely causes of such a reaction. Susan performed several experiments to rule out other possible causes.
c. Susan and Terry both believe that their checking accounts are overdrawn. Terry got a phone call from his bank telling him about his balance. Susan noticed it when she was balancing her checkbook last night.
d. John and Susan believe that some early settlers in New England suffered real hardships. John read some original diaries written by early settlers. Susan saw a documentary on TV.
e. John and Susan both believe that building a new bridge will greatly reduce the current traffic problems. John based his belief on a comparison of the proposed bridge and the traffic problems to those in other cities. Susan believes it because she heard the city planners claim that the bridge would reduce traffic problems.
f. John and Susan both believe that raising the minimum wage would lead to higher unemployment among the very poor. John believes it because he thinks that it follows from what he learned in his economics class. Susan believes it because she works in an unemployment office and has seen the unemployment lines grow after the wage has been raised in the past.
In (a) in (C), if the belief had been that the robber was a male with a long criminal record, then Susan’s belief would have been better justified than John’s, since it is hard to tell just by looking whether someone has a criminal record, but this is the kind of information a newspaper report would get right. For each of the other questions in (C), change the shared belief but not the kind of evidence each character relied on, so that the other person’s reasons are stronger.