A laplacean formal semantics for single-case propensities

Journal of Philosophical Logic 5 (3):321 - 353 (1976)
Even those generally skeptical of propensity interpretations of probability must now grant the following two points. First, the above single-case propensity interpretation meets recognized formal conditions for being a genuine interpretation of probability. Second, this interpretation is not logically reducible to a hypothetical relative frequency interpretation, nor is it only vacuously different from such an interpretation.The main objection to this propensity interpretation must be not that it is too vague or vacuous, but that it is metaphysically too extravagant. It asserts not only that there are physical possibilities in nature, but further that nature itself contains innate tendencies toward these possibilities, tendencies which have the logical structure of probabilities. Thus the basic dispute between advocates of an actualist relative frequency interpretation and a single-case propensity interpretation is not a matter of epistemology, but metaphysics. The frequency theorist wishes to maintain that claims about physical probabilities are nothing more than claims about relative frequencies that will occur in the actual history of the world, be it infinite or no. It is a substantial, though hardly conclusive, argument for the propensity view that the mathematical structures commonly employed in studies of stochastic processes and statistical inference are richer than can be accommodated by a relative frequency interpretation. Whether it is possible to bridge this gap without going beyond an actualist metaphysics remains to be seen.38
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