Journal Article

Do Chances Receive Equal Treatment Under The Laws? Or: Must Chances Be Probabilities?

Marc Lange

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, issue 2, pages 383-403
Published in print June 2006 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online May 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Do Chances Receive Equal Treatment Under The Laws? Or: Must Chances Be Probabilities?

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I offer an argument regarding chances that appears to yield a dilemma: either the chances at time t must be determined by the natural laws and the history through t of instantiations of categorical properties, or the function ch(•) assigning chances need not satisfy the axioms of probability. The dilemma's first horn might seem like a remnant of determinism. On the other hand, this horn might be inspired by our best scientific theories. In addition, it is entailed by the familiar view that facts about chances at t are ontologically reducible to facts about the laws and the categorical history through t. However, that laws are ontologically prior to chances stands in some tension with the view that chances are governed by laws just as categorical-property instantiations are. The dilemma's second horn entails that if chances are in fact probabilities, then this is a matter of natural law rather than logical or conceptual necessity. I conclude with a suggestion for going between the horns of the dilemma. This suggestion involves a generalization of the notion that chances evolve by conditionalization.


“Chances evolve by conditionalization”

How might the lawful magnitude principle be defended?

A historical interlude

What if chances failed to be determined by the laws and categorical facts?

Journal Article.  9360 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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