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John Stuart Mill, John Herschel, and the 'Probability of Causes'

John V. Strong
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1978, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1978), pp. 31-41
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192623
Page Count: 11
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John Stuart Mill, John Herschel, and the 'Probability of Causes'
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Abstract

While historians of scientific method have recently called attention to the views of many of John Stuart Mill's contemporaries on the relation between probability and inductive inference, little if any note has been taken of Mill's own vigorous attack on the received "Laplacean" interpretation of probability in the first (1843) edition of the System of Logic. This paper examines the place of Mill's critique, both in the overall framework of his philosophy, and in the tradition of assessing the so-called "probability of causes". It also offers an account of why, in later editions of the work, Mill appears to adopt a much more sympathetic stance toward the received view.

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