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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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A Chancy ‘Magic Trick’

A Chancy ‘Magic Trick’

(p.100) 5 A Chancy ‘Magic Trick’
Chance and Temporal Asymmetry

Alan Hájek

Oxford University Press

Various philosophers are skeptical about modalities such as laws of nature, counterfactuals, dispositions, and so on. Chance is in a way the black sheep of the modal family: not only is it a modality, but it is one that comes in degrees. One might as a result be skeptical about it twice over: as modal witchcraft with spurious numbers attached! In this chapter, it is argued that the numbers provide no extra reason for skepticism. A whole range of chance values, of arbitrary precision, can be derived from very basic and intuitive comparative assumptions. In fact, for a wide range of systems these assumptions seem hard to deny. The centrepiece of the argument is a ‘magic trick’. Give me any object, any number between 0 and 1 inclusive, and a specified accuracy, and I will use the object to generate an event whose chance is the number given to the accuracy specified.

Keywords:   chance, modality, degrees, exchangeability, magic trick

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