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Darrell P. Rowbottom

ISBN: 978-1-509-50020-8 October 2015 Polity 180 Pages


When a doctor tells you there’s a one percent chance that an operation will result in your death, or a scientist claims that his theory is probably true, what exactly does that mean? Understanding probability is clearly very important, if we are to make good theoretical and practical choices.

In this engaging and highly accessible introduction to the philosophy of probability, Darrell Rowbottom takes the reader on a journey through all the major interpretations of probability, with reference to real-world situations. In lucid prose, he explores the many fallacies of probabilistic reasoning, such as the ‘gambler’s fallacy’ and the ‘inverse fallacy’, and shows how we can avoid falling into these traps by using the interpretations presented. He also illustrates the relevance of the interpretation of probability across disciplinary boundaries, by examining which interpretations of probability are appropriate in diverse areas such as quantum mechanics, game theory, and genetics.

Using entertaining dialogues to draw out the key issues at stake, this unique book will appeal to students and scholars across philosophy, the social sciences, and the natural sciences.

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Probability: A Two Faced Guide to Life?
  • Chapter 2: The Classical Interpretation
  • Chapter 3: The Logical Interpretation
  • Chapter 4: The Subjective Interpretation
  • Chapter 5: The Objective Bayesian Interpretation
  • Chapter 6: Group Level Interpretations
  • Chapter 7: The Frequency Interpretation
  • Chapter 8: The Propensity Interpretation
  • Chapter 9: Fallacies, Puzzles, and a Paradox
  • Chapter 10: Interpreting Probability in the Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences
  • Appendix
  • A. The Axioms and Laws of Probability
  • B. Bayes’s Theorem
  • References
  • "This is a remarkable book in that, while using the absolute minimum of mathematics, it manages to explain all the main views in the philosophy of probability clearly and accurately. Indeed it covers some recent approaches on which active research is taking place at the moment."
    Donald Gillies, University College London

    "Easy and fun to read, this book is a thought-provoking introduction to a wide range of important theories and issues about the nature of probability."
    Timothy Williamson, University of Oxford