The most familiar philosophical conception of objective chance renders determinism incompatible with non-trivial chances. This conception – associated in particular with the work of David Lewis – is not a good fit with our use of the word ‘chance’ and its cognates in ordinary discourse. In this paper we show how a generalized framework for chance can reconcile determinism with non-trivial chances, and provide for a more charitable interpretation of ordinary chance-talk. According to our proposal, variation in an admissible ‘evidence (...) base’ generates a spectrum of different chance functions. Successive coarse-grainings of the evidence base generates a partial ordering of chance functions, with finer trumping coarser if known. We suggest that chance-attributions in ordinary discourse express different chance functions in different contexts, and we sketch a potential contextual mechanism for making particular chance functions salient. The mechanism involves the idea that admissible evidence is available evidence: propositions that could be known. A consequence is that attributions of objective chances inherit the relatively familiar context-sensitivity associated with the modal ‘could’. We show how this context-dependency undermines certain arguments for the incompatibility of chance with determinism. (shrink)
Darren Bradley has recently appealed to observation selection effects to argue that conditionalization presents no special problem for Everettian quantum mechanics, and to defend the ‘halfer’ answer to the puzzle of Sleeping Beauty. I assess Bradley’s arguments and conclude that while he is right about confirmation in Everettian quantum mechanics, he is wrong about Sleeping Beauty. This result is doubly good news for Everettians: they can endorse Bayesian confirmation theory without qualification, but they are not thereby compelled to adopt the (...) unpopular ‘halfer’ answer in Sleeping Beauty. These considerations suggest that objective chance is playing an important and under-appreciated role in Sleeping Beauty. 1 Introduction2 Confirmation in Everettian Quantum Mechanics3 Sleeping Beauty4 The Selection Model5 Bradley’s Argument6 The Right Route to ⅓7 The Breakdown of the Analogy8 Alternative Diagnoses9 God’s Gambling Game10 Non-chancy Sleeping Beauty Cases11 Conclusion. (shrink)
In ‘Quiddistic Knowledge’ (Schaffer in Philos Stud 123:1–32, 2005), Jonathan Schaffer argued influentially against the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. In this reply I aim to show how a coherent and well-motivated form of necessitarianism can withstand his critique. Modal necessitarianism—the view that the actual laws are the laws of all possible worlds—can do justice to some intuitive motivations for necessitarianism, and it has the resources to respond to all of Schaffer’s objections. It also has certain (...) advantages over contingentism in the domain of modal epistemology. I conclude that necessitarianism about laws remains a live option. (shrink)
In this paper I assess the prospects for combining contemporary Everettian quantum mechanics (EQM) with branching-time semantics in the tradition of Kripke, Prior, Thomason and Belnap. I begin by outlining the salient features of ‘decoherence-based’ EQM, and of the ‘consistent histories’ formalism that is particularly apt for conceptual discussions in EQM. This formalism permits of both ‘branching worlds’ and ‘parallel worlds’ interpretations; the metaphysics of EQM is in this sense underdetermined by the physics. A prominent argument due to Lewis (On (...) the Plurality of Worlds, 1986 ) supports the non-branching interpretation. Belnap et al. (Facing the Future: Agents and Choices in Our Indeterministic World, 2001 ) refer to Lewis’ argument as the ‘Assertion problem’, and propose a pragmatic response to it. I argue that their response is unattractively ad hoc and complex, and that it prevents an Everettian who adopts branching-time semantics from making clear sense of objective probability. The upshot is that Everettians are better off without branching-time semantics. I conclude by discussing and rejecting an alternative possible motivation for branching time. (shrink)
David Wallace has given a decision-theoretic argument for the Born Rule in the context of Everettian quantum mechanics (EQM). This approach promises to resolve some long-standing problems with probability in EQM, but it has faced plenty of resistance. One kind of objection (the ‘incoherence problem’) charges that the requisite notion of decision-theoretic uncertainty is unavailable in the Everettian picture, so that the argument cannot gain any traction; another kind of objection grants the proof’s applicability and targets the premises. In this (...) article I propose some novel principles connecting the physics of EQM with the metaphysics of modality, and argue that in the resulting framework the incoherence problem does not arise. These principles also help to justify one of the most controversial premises of Wallace’s argument, ‘branching indifference’. Absent any a priori reason to align the metaphysics with the physics in some other way, the proposed principles can be adopted on grounds of theoretical utility. The upshot is that Everettians can, after all, make clear sense of objective probability. 1 Introduction2 Setup3 Individualism versus Collectivism4 The Ingredients of Indexicalism5 Indexicalism and Incoherence5.1 The trivialization problem5.2 The uncertainty problem6 Indexicalism and Branching Indifference6.1 Introducing branching indifference6.2 The pragmatic defence of branching indifference6.3 The non-existence defence of branching indifference6.4 The indexicalist defence of branching indifference7 Conclusion. (shrink)
The human story behind Everettian quantum mechanics Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9510-4 Authors Alastair Wilson, University College, Oxford, OX1 4BH UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Simon Saunders and David Wallace have proposed an attractive semantics for interpreting linguistic communities embedded in an Everettian multiverse. It provides a charitable interpretation of our ordinary talk about the future, and allows us to retain a principle of bivalence for propositions and to retain the law of excluded middle in the logic of propositions about the future. But difficulties arise when it comes to providing an appropriate account of the metaphysics of macroscopic objects and events. I evaluate various metaphysical (...) frameworks which might be combined with the Saunders–Wallace semantics. I conclude that the most appropriate metaphysics to underwrite the semantics renders Everettian quantum mechanics a theory of non-overlapping worlds. (shrink)
How should we respond to cases of disagreement where two epistemic agents have the same evidence but come to different conclusions? Adam Elga has provided a Bayesian framework for addressing this question. In this paper, I shall highlight two unfortunate consequences of this framework, which Elga does not anticipate. Both problems derive from a failure of commutativity between application of the equal weight view and updating in the light of other evidence.
Dispositions can combine as vector sums. Recent authors on dispositions, such as George Molnar and Stephen Mumford, have responded to this feature of dispositions by introducing a distinction between effects and contributions to effects, and by identifying disposition-manifestations with the latter. But some have been sceptical of the reality or knowability of component vectors; Jennifer McKitrick (forthcoming) presses these concerns against the conception of manifestations as contributions to effects. In this paper, I aim to respond to McKitrick's arguments and to (...) defend the metaphysical and epistemological propriety of component vectors. My strategy appeals to varying kinematic frames of reference. By transforming to the appropriate non-inertial frame, component acceleration vectors can be transformed into resultant acceleration vectors, and in such frames they become directly observable. Being a component acceleration vector and being a resultant acceleration vector are both frame-dependent properties of properties; they are not to be thought of as intrinsic or fundamental properties of an acceleration vector, but as artefacts of our frame-dependent notation for representing vector quantities. To conclude the paper, I defend the view proposed against two styles of objection. The first objection resurrects scepticism about component vectors as scepticism about fundamental component vectors. The second objection questions the need for reference frames in the explanation by invoking a 'counterfactual' theory of contributions. (shrink)
Recent work on probability in the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics yields a decision-theoretic derivation of David Lewis’ Principal Principle, and hence a general metaphysical theory of probability; part 1 is a discussion of this remarkable result. I defend the claim that the ‘subjective uncertainty’ principle is required for the derivation to succeed, arguing that it amounts to a theoretical identification of chance. In part 2, I generalize this account, and suggest that the Everett interpretation, in combination with a plausible (...) view of natural laws, has the potential to provide a reductive theory of metaphysical modality. I defend the resulting naturalistic modal realism, and outline some of its implications for other parts of metaphysics. (shrink)