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Chance and Temporal Asymmetry$
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Alastair Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673421

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673421.001.0001

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Chance and Context

Chance and Context

(p.19) 1 Chance and Context
Chance and Temporal Asymmetry

Toby Handfield

Alastair Wilson

Oxford University Press

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 use of the word ‘chance’ and cognates in ordinary discourse. A generalized framework for chance reconciles determinism with non-trivial chances, and provides for a more charitable interpretation of ordinary chance-talk. Variation in an admissible ‘evidence base’ generates a spectrum of different chance functions: coarse-grainings of the evidence base generate a partial ordering of chance functions, with finer trumping coarser if known. A contextual mechanism is proposed, according to which users of chance-talk refer to different chance functions in different contexts. Admissible evidence is identified with available evidence: evidence which could be obtained. Consequently, attributions of objective chances inherit the relatively familiar context-sensitivity associated with the modal ‘could’. This context-dependency undermines certain arguments for the incompatibility of chance with determinism.

Keywords:   Chance, credence, Principal Principle, contextualism, determinism, admissibility, objective probability

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