Inductive Probability

Inductive Probability

Inductive Probability

Inductive Probability

Excerpt

It may, therefore, be a subject worthy of curiosity, to enquire what is the nature of that evidence which assures us of any real existence and matter of fact, beyond the present testimony of our senses, or the records of our memory. (D. Hume)

Everyone has some idea of the meanings of the terms 'probable' and 'improbable'; yet no attempt to make precise the exact nature of these concepts can be said to have been successful. (R. H. Nisbet)

The scope of the following essay, and my reasons for writing it, are indicated by the preceding quotations. On the one hand, the interest of the knot of problems usually treated of under the rubric Probability and Induction is at least as great in our day as it was in Hume's. On the other, the fact that there is no sort of agreement among those who have tried to unravel it about what the right solution of these problems may be, leaves ample room for another attempt upon them.

My primary objective throughout is to provide a true constructive account of the matter. But I also engage in a good deal of critical discussion, in which are included fairly numerous quotations and references. For the literature on the subject is interesting and extensive; and though this book is in no sense a history of philosophical doctrines about Induction and Probability, I hope that these discussions increase its educative value. In all of them, the ideal I aim at is that which Leibniz set himself in his examination of Locke Essay concerning Human Understanding:
'Mon but a esté plustost d'eclaircir les choses, que de refuter les sentimens d'autruy'. Consequently, they are selective and not complete, since I am concerned to make only those points, both critical and constructive, which illuminate the general view of probability and induction presented in this book.

Probability is a concept which is used not only by ordinary men but also by specialists, notably mathematicians, statisticians, men of science and of law. The philosopher of Probability must consequently consider these professional uses as well as the lay ones.

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