Symmetries of Probability Kinematics

Bas C. van Fraassen

in Laws and Symmetry

Published in print November 1989 | ISBN: 9780198248606
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597459 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

 Symmetries of Probability Kinematics

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While it was argued earlier in the book that no rule‐governed notion of rational opinion change could be adequate, there are certainly patterns of normal opinion change (updating in response to new data or new constraints accepted in response to experience), which have a rule‐following form. The basic example is Simple Conditionalization (often characterized as the application of Bayes's rule or Bayes's theorem, sometimes called Bayesian Conditionalization, and sometimes accepted as the sole admissible form of opinion change), but more advanced patterns (beginning with Jeffrey Conditionalization) have been described in the literature, as well as challenged there, e.g. by Isaac Levi. The question of what can justify such rules is addressed using symmetry arguments, and the (hidden or explicit) premises of such arguments analysed. Probability kinematics, as formulated initially by Richard Jeffrey, is the general theory of rules for changing a (‘prior’) probability function, subject to given or imposed constraints, into a new (‘updated’, ‘posterior’) function. Such constraints can take various forms, and the rules offered for them can be limited by symmetry considerations but may not be uniquely determined.

Keywords: Bayes's rule; Bayes's theorem; Bayesian conditionalization; Richard Jeffrey; Jeffrey conditionalization; Isaac Levi; probability kinematics; simple conditionalization; symmetry arguments

Chapter.  12226 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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