The Concept of Probability in the Mathematical Representation of Reality
Translated and edited by Frederick Eberhardt and Clark Glymour
Hans Reichenbach, a prominent member of the logical empiricist movement, and student and friend of Albert Einstein, was the foremost figure in philosophy of physics in the first half of the 20th century and one of the most influential advocates of the idea that the estimation of probabilities as limits of relative frequencies lies at the foundation of science. Recent scholarship has emphasized the Kantian sources of the logical positivist and scientific philosophy movement early in the last century. Reichenbach's lucid and original doctoral thesis, never before translated, throws new light on how the Critique of Pure Reason was understood in some quarters at the time. The thesis is the source of several of the themes in Reichenbach's still-influential posthumous book, The Direction of Time, and shows the early focus of Reichenbach's thought on the interdependence of physics, probability, and epistemology, even before the appearance of the quantum theory. Of much more historical interest, Reichenbach's thesis anticipates in detail the substance of recent work in philosophy of science concerned with how stable macroscopic frequencies can be produced from microscopic causal relations, and attempts a derivation of a special case of the Markov condition relating causality and probability, a subject of widespread contemporary philosophical discussion.
Reproduced in the original German, with English translation on facing pages.
"Origins are important, and the origins of philosophy of science, especially in America, lie in large part in Reichenbach. Nearly every American philosopher of science was a student of his, or student of a student, or student of a student of a student. And Reichenbach's origins are found in this book. We are given not only his dissertation, in German and English, but also a very helpful introduction that traces the fundamental ideas of objectivity and probability from Reichenbach's own sources, through the dissertation, and on into his mature work."
—Richard Creath, co-editor (with Jane Maienschein) of Biology and Epistemology
"The publication of Hans Reichenbach’s dissertation adds a fascinating chapter to the story of the growth of logical empiricism from its neo-Kantian roots. Causation and probability come together here for the first time in Reichenbach's writings, as they will again so fruitfully in his later work; here it is probability that is illuminated. This essay is recognizably the work of a thinker who would go on to become one of the conceptually most distinctive and innovative of twentieth-century philosophers of science."
—Michael Strevens, author of Bigger than Chaos: Understanding Complexity through Probability
Clark Glymour is Alumni University Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. His numerous influential books in philosophy of science include The Mind's Arrows, Theory and Evidence, and Causation, Prediction, and Search.
Frederick Eberhardt earned his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University and is currently a post-doctoral fellow working with the Causal Learning Collaborative Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley.