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Briggs, Ray, , . The Metaphysics of Chance
2010, Philosophy Compass 5(11): 938-952.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: This article surveys several interrelated issues in the metaphysics of chance. First, what is the relationship between the probabilities associated with types of trials (for instance, the chance that a twenty?eight?year old develops diabetes before age thirty) and the probabilities associated with individual token trials (for instance, the chance that I develop diabetes before age thirty)? Second, which features of the the world fix the chances: are there objective chances at all, and if so, are there non?chancy facts on which they supervene? Third, can chance be reconciled with determinism, and if so, how?

Comment: A nice introduction to the Metaphysics of Chance, suitable for an intermediate metaphysics course. Could also be a good bridge into a determinism or decision theory course element. Requires prior knowledge of some concepts e.g. token/type distinction and supervenience – but could also be a good way to learn what these are. Alternatively, a particular section of the article could be set (e.g. the final section on whether chance can be reconciled with determinism).

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Ismael, Jenann, , . Raid! Dissolving the Big, Bad Bug
2008, Nous 42 (2): 292–307
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Antony Eagle

Abstract: There’s a long history of discussion of probability in philosophy, but objective chance separated itself off and came into its own as a topic with the advent of a physical theory—quantum mechanics—in which chances play a central, and apparently ineliminable, role. In 1980 David Lewis wrote a paper pointing out that a very broad class of accounts of the nature of chance apparently lead to a contradiction when combined with a principle that expresses the role of chance in guiding belief. There is still no settled agreement on the proper response to the Lewis problem. At the time he wrote the article, Lewis despaired of a solution, but, although he never achieved one that satisfied him completely, by 1994, due to work primarily by Thau and Hall, he had come to think the problem could be disarmed if we fudged a little on the meaning of ‘chance’. I’ll say more about this below. What I’m going to suggest, however, is that the qualification is unnecessary. The problem depends on an assumption that should be rejected, viz., that using information about chance to guide credence requires one to conditionalize on the theory of chance that one is using. I’m going to propose a general recipe for using information about chance to guide belief that does not require conditionalization on a theory of chance at any stage. Lewis’ problem doesn’t arise in this setting.

Comment: A useful summary and positive contribution to the large debate over Lewis’ Principal Principle connecting chance and credence. Useful for a graduate seminar in philosophy of probability or specialised topics in metaphysics and philosophy of physics.

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