The Nature of Physical Reality: A Philosophy of Modern Physics

By Henry Margenau | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Probability

13.1. PROBABILITY AND INDUCTIVE LOGIC

A SUBJECT as large and as ramified as probability cannot be dealt with, indeed cannot even be summarized, in a single chapter. It is important, therefore, that we select for discussion those phases which have the most direct bearing upon epistemology. In view of the necessity for such discrimination, two things cannot be attempted. First we must forego all pretense of giving an impartial account of the numerous philosophical attitudes which thinkers have taken toward the meaning of probability. The reader who desires one is referred to Ernest Nagel's competent and critical review.1 Second we are forced to omit consideration of technical details except in so far as they are needed for basic understanding and for stable terminology. The number of books supplying such knowledge is large. A small list that is conformable to our purposes and also reasonably representative of different views is given below.2

There is another reason for the restrictions we are about to impose, a reason which makes the need for our limitation almost a fortunate circumstance. General discussions of the meaning of probability by philosophers have lately shown little evidence of agreement upon any common view, and the literature is becoming progressively more confused. As a case in point we cite a recent

____________________
1
E. Nagel, "Principles of the Theory of Probability", "International Encyclopedia of Unified Science," Vol. 1, No. 6, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1939.
2
P. S. Laplace, "Essai philosophique des probabilités," Paris, 1814. R. von Mises , "Wahrscheinlichkeitsrechnung und ihre Anwendung," Leipzig, 1931. J. V. Uspensky, "Introduction to Mathematical Probability," McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, 1937. T. C. Fry, "Probability and Its Engineering Uses," D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., New York, 1928.

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