Maria Carla Galavotti. Philosophical Introduction to Probability. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information Publications, 2005. Pp. x + 265. ISBN 1-57586-490-8 (pbk), 1-57586-489-4 (hardback) [Book Review]

Philosophia Mathematica 15 (1):129-132 (2007)

Donald Gillies
University College London
Galavotti begins her book by stressing the centrality of probability to a whole range of philosophical problems. She writes 1: "Probability invests all branches of philosophical investigation, from epistemology to moral and political philosophy, and impinges upon major controversies, like that between determinism and indeterminism, or between free will and moral obligation, and problems such as: ‘What degree of certainty can human knowledge attain?’ ‘What is the relationship between probability and certainty?’" She then explains that her book will focus on the interpretation of the notion of probability. Chapter 1 contains some general remarks about the notion of probability, and Chapter 2 presents a brief introduction to the formal calculus of probability. Then in the next five chapters Galavotti presents in turn the five main interpretations of probability, namely the classical, frequency, propensity, logical, and subjective.Galavotti's approach to the material is historical. She traces, through extensive quotations from, and discussions of, the principal authors, the development of each of the interpretations. In many cases, she deals with early advocates of the position who are often omitted, such as De Morgan, Boole, and Jevons in the case of the logical interpretation, and Donkin in the case of the subjective interpretation. At the same time, the story is often brought right up to the present with discussions of recent authors such as Richard Jeffrey and Patrick Suppes in the case of the subjective interpretation. Galavotti's book is an excellent advertisement for the virtues of …
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DOI 10.1093/philmat/nkl022
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