Journal Article

Randomness Is Unpredictability

Antony Eagle

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 56, issue 4, pages 749-790
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Randomness Is Unpredictability

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The concept of randomness has been unjustly neglected in recent philosophical literature, and when philosophers have thought about it, they have usually acquiesced in views about the concept that are fundamentally flawed. After indicating the ways in which these accounts are flawed, I propose that randomness is to be understood as a special case of the epistemic concept of the unpredictability of a process. This proposal arguably captures the intuitive desiderata for the concept of randomness; at least it should suggest that the commonly accepted accounts cannot be the whole story and more philosophical attention needs to be paid.

Randomness in science

1.1 Random systems

1.2 Random behaviour

1.3 Random sampling

1.4 Caprice, arbitrariness and noise

Concepts of randomness

2.1 Von Mises/Church/Martin-Löf randomness

2.2 KCS-randomness

Randomness is unpredictability: preliminaries

3.1 Process and product randomness

3.2 Randomness is indeterminism?


4.1 Epistemic constraints on prediction

4.2 Computational constraints on prediction

4.3 Pragmatic constraints on prediction

4.4 Prediction defined


Randomness is unpredictability

6.1 Clarification of the definition of randomness

6.2 Randomness and probability

6.3 Subjectivity and context sensitivity of randomness

Evaluating the analysis

[R]andomness … is going to be a concept which is relative to our body of knowledge, which will somehow reflect what we know and what we don't know. Henry E. Kyburg, Jr ([1974], p. 217)

Phenomena that we cannot predict must be judged random. Patrick Suppes ([1984], p. 32)

Journal Article.  18343 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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