Journal Article

On Higher-Order and Free-Floating Chances

Justin C. Fisher

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, issue 4, pages 691-707
Published in print December 2006 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online November 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axl024
On Higher-Order and Free-Floating Chances

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Marc Lange ([2006]) considers what I call free-floating chances—objective chances that obtain at a given time despite the fact that their values are not determined by the laws of nature together with the full history of non-chancy facts up to that time. I offer an intuitive example of this phenomenon, and use it to argue that free-floating chances are indeed possible. Their possibility violates three quite widely held principles about chances: the lawful magnitude principle, the principle that chances evolve by conditionalization and a version of David Lewis' principal principle. I argue that we should reject common formulations of each of these principles, though I offer revised understandings of each which retain much of the intuitive attractiveness of the originals and are consistent with the possibility of free-floating chances. I conclude by arguing that, while considerations of free-floating chances are important, they will not sustain the extravagant conclusions Lange attempts to draw from them.

Introduction

First- and Higher-Order Chances

Free-Floating Chances

Support for the Intuitive Assessment

Three Principles Violated

What to do?

COND as a Default Hypothesis

A More Principled Principal Principle

Conclusion

Journal Article.  7110 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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