Philosophy and the Practice of Bayesian Statistics in the Social Sciences

Andrew Gelman and Cosma Rohilla Shalizi

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392753
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Philosophy and the Practice of Bayesian Statistics in the Social Sciences


This article reports the perspective on the philosophy of Bayesian statistics, based on the idiosyncratic readings of the philosophical literature and, more importantly, the experiences doing applied statistics in the social sciences and elsewhere. It is noted that Bayes need not be linked with subjectivity and inductive reasoning. Bayesian statistics is connected with a formal inductive approach. A problem with the inductive philosophy of Bayesian statistics is that it assumes that the true model is one of the possibilities being considered. The Bayesian data analysis fits well into the falsificationist approach. Because it is felt that the status quo perception of Bayesian philosophy is wrong, it is thought that it is more helpful to present the author's perspective forcefully, with the understanding that this is only part of the larger philosophical picture.

Keywords: inductive philosophy; Bayesian statistics; Bayes; formal inductive approach; social sciences; falsificationist approach

Article.  5565 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Epistemology

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