Journal Article

Chance without Credence

John T. Roberts

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 64, issue 1, pages 33-59
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 2012 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Chance without Credence

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Mathematics


Show Summary Details


It is a standard view that the concept of chance is inextricably related to the technical concept of credence. One influential version of this view is that the chance role is specified by (something in the neighborhood of) David Lewis's Principal Principle, which asserts a certain definite relation between chance and credence. If this view is right, then one cannot coherently affirm that there are chance processes in the physical world while rejecting the theoretical framework in which credence is defined, namely the Bayesian framework. This is surprising; why should adopting a theory that says there are chances at work in nature put any particular constraints on our theorizing about epistemology and rational choice? It is quite plausible that in order for anything to count as the referent of our concept chance, it would have to be related to epistemic rationality in a certain way—roughly, it is rational to have more confidence that something will happen the greater you think its chance is. But this commonsensical idea does not seem to be inherently committed to any particular theoretical approach to rationality, so why should we think that adopting the Bayesian approach is a prerequisite for thinking coherently about chance? I propose and defend a replacement for the Principal Principle which makes no use of the concept of credence. I also argue that this replacement is advantageous for the project of theorizing about the nature of chance.

1The Entanglement of Chance with Credence

2Desiderata for a Replacement for PP

3Disentangling Chance from Credence

4What RP Demands of a Bayesian Subject

5How Narrowly RP Constrains the Chance Function

6An Objection

7An Unexpected Benefit


Appendix A:Any Subject with Credences who Obeys PP also Obeys RP

Appendix B:Any Subject with Credences who Obeys RP also Approximately Obeys PP

Journal Article.  10897 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.