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On Higher-Order and Free-Floating Chances

Justin C. Fisher
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 57, No. 4 (Dec., 2006), pp. 691-707
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4489091
Page Count: 17
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On Higher-Order and Free-Floating Chances
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Abstract

Marc Lange ([2006]) considers what I call free-floating chances-objective chances that obtain at a given time despite the fact that their values are not determined by the laws of nature together with the full history of non-chancy facts up to that time. I offer an intuitive example of this phenomenon, and use it to argue that free-floating chances are indeed possible. Their possibility violates three quite widely held principles about chances: the lawful magnitude principle, the principle that chances evolve by conditionalization and a version of David Lewis' principal principle. I argue that we should reject common formulations of each of these principles, though I offer revised understandings of each which retain much of the intuitive attractiveness of the originals and are consistent with the possibility of free-floating chances. I conclude by arguing that, while considerations of free-floating chances are important, they will not sustain the extravagant conclusions Lange attempts to draw from them.

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