Journal Article

What Chances Could Not Be

Jenann Ismael

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 47, issue 1, pages 79-91
Published in print March 1996 | ISSN: 0007-0882
e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/47.1.79
What Chances Could Not Be

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The chance of a physical event is the objective, single-case probability that it will occur. In probabilistic physical theories like quantum mechanics, the chances of physical events play the formal role that the values of physical quantities play in classical (deterministic) physics, and there is a temptation to regard them on the model of the latter as describing intrinsic properties of the systems to which they are assigned.

I argue that this understanding of chances in quantum mechanics, despite being a part of the orthodox interpretation of the theory and the most prevalent view in the physical community, is incompatible with a very wide range of metaphysical views about the nature of chance. The options that remain are unlikely to be attractive to scientists and scientifically minded philosophers.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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