Probability Out Of Determinism

Published: Probabilities in Physics, edited by Claus Beisbart and Stephan Hartmann, Oxford University Press. 2011.

Abstract: This paper offers a metaphysics of physical probability in (or if you prefer, truth conditions for probabilistic claims about) deterministic systems based on an approach to the explanation of probabilistic patterns in deterministic systems called the method of arbitrary functions. Much of the appeal of the method is its promise to provide an account of physical probability on which probability assignments have the ability to support counterfactuals about frequencies. It is argued that the eponymous arbitrary functions are of little philosophical use, but that they can be substituted for facts about frequencies without losing the ability to provide counterfactual support. The result is an account of probability in deterministic systems that has a propensity-like look and feel, yet which requires no supplement to the standard modern empiricist tool kit of particular matters of fact and principles of physical dynamics.

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