Journal Article

Varieties of Propensity

Donald Gillies

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 51, issue 4, pages 807-835
Published in print December 2000 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2000 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/51.4.807
Varieties of Propensity

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The propensity interpretation of probability was introduced by Popper ([1957]), but has subsequently been developed in different ways by quite a number of philosophers of science. This paper does not attempt a complete survey, but discusses a number of different versions of the theory, thereby giving some idea of the varieties of propensity. Propensity theories are classified into (i) long-run and (ii) single-case. The paper argues for a long-run version of the propensity theory, but this is contrasted with two single-case propensity theories, one due to Miller and the later Popper, and the other to Fetzer. The three approaches are compared by examining how they deal with a key problem for the propensity approach, namely the relationship between propensity and causality and Humphreys' paradox.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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