Jenann Ismael
Columbia University
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.
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