Article

Mechanistic Social Probability: How Individual Choices and Varying Circumstances Produce Stable Social Patterns

Marshall Abrams

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392753
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195392753.013.0009

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Mechanistic Social Probability: How Individual Choices and Varying Circumstances Produce Stable Social Patterns

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This article investigates a philosophical hypothesis about the nature of (some) probabilities encountered in social sciences, and also explains how to use a new interpretation of probability, far flung frequency (FFF) mechanistic probability, to central cases in social sciences. Probabilities in error terms can reflect both methodological and social probabilities. Some well-known interpretations of probability are then highlighted. “Mechanistic probability” interpretations depend on the same causal structure, but there is no established term for such interpretations at present. Furthermore, the article reviews the core concepts of mechanistic probability using the idea of a wheel of fortune. The wheel of fortune is called a causal map device. The evidence for FFF mechanistic probability in social contexts is not as strong as one would like. It should be taken seriously as an account of the kind of probability to which many claims in social sciences implicitly refer.

Keywords: far flung frequency; mechanistic probability; social sciences; wheel of fortune; causal map device

Article.  19713 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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