
Probability Is the Very Guide of Life: The
Philosophical Uses of Chance
Henry E.
Kyburg, Jr. and Mariam Thalos, eds.
The theory of
probability grew up in gaming rooms, and then in insurance
companies, but was eventually applied by philosophers to all
kinds of ordinary choices. That application, however, bristles
with knotty problems and disagreements among the experts. This
collection of philosophical essays by leading specialists in the
subject looks at various technical problems in the use of
probability theory for guidance in practical decisions.
For those who already have a basic grounding in philosophy,
logic, and probability theory, this book provides an informative
sampling of the best recent work on developing an adequate
conception of the use of probability theory in practical
decisionmaking.
The three standard views of probability are those of Richard von
Mises, which identifies probability with limiting frequency;
Carnap and his followers, which sees probability as a kind of
partial entailment according to "state descriptions"; and Ramsey
and Finetti (the Bayesian or subjective interpretation), which
sees probabilities as tied to choices. As guides to life, each
of these approaches has its shortcomings: the frequency
interpretation allows many values of probability, the Carnapian
or logical view fails to provide any specific values, and the
subjective view can accommodate any value. Attempts to combine
these approaches have also been disappointing.
The contributors to this book represent a crosssection of
contemporary views. They include attempts to tackle general
issues, such as McGrew's discussion of Hume's assault on
induction and Henderson's examination of recent attempts to
reconcile Bayesian and Frequentist approaches, and the
application of probability theory to specific kinds of decision,
like Malinas's treatment of Simpson's Paradox or the article by
Colyvan, Regan, and Ferson, which looks at the pitfalls of
depending on statistical evidence to establish criminal guilt.

