Projective Probability

Projective Probability

Projective Probability

Projective Probability

Synopsis

This book presents a novel theory of probability applicable to general reasoning, science, and the courts. Based on a strongly subjective starting-point, with probabilities viewed simply as the guarded beliefs one can reasonably hold, the theory shows how such beliefs are legitimately "projected" outwards as if they existed in the world independent of our judgements.

Excerpt

If you look at ideas about probability and its application, it's always as though a priori and a posteriori were jumbled together, as if the same state of affairs could be discovered or corroborated by experience, whose existence was evident a priori. This of course shows that something's amiss in our ideas . . . (Wittgenstein [1975: §232])

THAT there is something very much amiss in most thinking about probability is one of the few propositions most probability theorists would agree on; even then, the proposition is likely to be treated indexically, the theorist's own account being taken to encompass the small minority of unconfused thoughts on the subject. Such partisanship is common enough in philosophy, but in this area it tends, less usually, to be accompanied by an urge to plunge into detail rather than fight out the central metaphysical and epistemological issues raised by the contending theories. A standard dialectical pattern is to offer a taxonomy of theories of probability--anything from a twofold classification (Carnap [1950]) to the elevenfold of Fine [1970]; defend in detail the applicability of one interpretation in all circumstances, or some (even all) in some specified varying circumstances; and criticize in detail the mistaken claims of other interpretations to be applicable in contexts where they are not. I would not disparage that pattern; something like it must surely provide the gist of any explanatory theory, and much of this work will conform to it. But it brings with it the danger of failing to address the larger issues of the force and motive of our detailed theory; I shall constantly, especially in later chapters, attempt to respect that danger. Wittgenstein [1975: §235] speaks of probability laws as 'the natural laws you see when you screw up your eyes': as in natural philosophy, so in philosophy, much can be gained at certain stages from deliberately blurring one's vision.

Much of this Introduction will be deliberately blurred (apart from whatever is accidentally blurred). My aim will be to demonstrate that there is room for argument in favour of a univocal personalist theory of probability--but I shall not say yet what form that theory might take.

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