The Philosophical Relevance of Statistics

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:97 - 109 (1980)
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While philosophers have studied probability and induction, statistics has not received the kind of philosophical attention mathematics and physics have. Despite increasing use of statistics in science, statistical advances have been little noted in the philosophy of science literature. This paper shows the relevance of statistics to both theoretical and applied problems of philosophy. It begins by discussing the relevance of statistics to the problem of induction and then discusses the reasoning that leads to causal generalizations and how statistics elucidates the structure of science as it is actually practiced. In addition to being relevant for building an adequate theory of scientific inference, it is argued that statistics provides a link between philosophy, science and public policy.



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Deborah Mayo
Virginia Tech

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