The evidential value of pedigree, II

Last time I asked about this situation. You’re at the final stage of a job search — call it stage C. You’re looking for evidence that you should prefer to hire one of the two otherwise (up till now) indistinguishable finalists, D and U. (D and U are each a year out of grad school, have three publications in equally prestigious venues, have equally impressive writing samples, gave equally compelling job talks, have equally promising research agendas, have equally impressive teaching credentials, are the same gender and ethnicity, etc, etc.) At this final stage, what’s the evidential value of the following fact?

  • D earned the PhD from a distinguished university with a distinguished philosophy department, whereas U earned the PhD from an undistinguished university with an undistinguished philosophy department.

These answers emerged in the thread:

  1. The pedigree-differential favors hiring D, because doing so would enhance your department’s connections.
  2. The pedigree-differential favors hiring U, because it indicates that U has more natural talent or determination or some other characteristic that promotes philosophical excellence. After all, abundant evidence indicates that U ended up as D’s philosophical equal, despite having access to fewer resources.
  3. The pedigree-differential favors hiring D because you should suspect that D received more valuable philosophical training in virtue of being around more excellent philosophers, even though it hasn’t yet manifested in any discernible way.

So now I want to move the question back, stage by stage. Does the pedigree-differential give you a reason to prefer either candidate at either of the following stages? Imagine that at each stage there is one spot left, and D and U are the finalists for filling that last spot.

B. Deciding whom to fly-out.

A. Deciding whom to add to the short-list for interviewing.

(Of course, we must cancel out the “gave equally impressive job talks” part when we consider these stages.) Do any of 1 – 3 apply at these earlier stages? Is the pedigree-differential relevant for different reasons at the earlier stages?


The evidential value of pedigree, II — 2 Comments

  1. Hi John, one way to state the third consideration would be to say that pedigree is “meta-evidence” that there are [perhaps yet-to-be-manifested] first-order reasons to favour the candidate. So the more completely informed you are about the first-order reasons, the less room there is for such “meta-evidence” to be indicative. Conversely, the less info you have (as when you’re earlier in the search process), the weightier this indication will be.

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