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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’

Chapter:
(p.100) 5 A Chancy ‘Magic Trick’
Source:
Chance and Temporal Asymmetry
Author(s):

Alan Hájek

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673421.003.0005

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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