[extropy-chat] what is probability?
gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 9 15:50:44 UTC 2007
On Mon, 08 Jan 2007 17:58:12 -0500, John K Clark <jonkc at att.net> wrote:
> But I'm not just picking on you, I think that is largely the case for all
> philosophers of science. The thing is, if they were really onto
> something, if they really did have a better understanding of the
> scientific method then mere scientists you'd think they wouldhave made
> major contributions to our understanding of how theuniverse works just
> like those silly scientists have. But I can't thinkof a single
> philosopher of science that has done that. Isn't that strange?
Ernst Mach comes to mind as a philosopher of science who made major
contributions to our understanding of how the universe works. As one
biographer put it: "[Mach was] an Austrian physicist and philosopher who
established important principles of optics, mechanics, and wave dynamics
and who supported the view that all knowledge is a conceptual organization
of the data of sensory experience (or observation)."
Mach's influence as a philosopher is also very relevant to this subject of
probability. Richard von Mises, famous for developing the frequency
theory of probability, considered himself a "devoted disciple of Mach"
(his own words) and according to Gillies (2000), "Von Mises in his
development of probability theory follows exactly the pattern of Mach's
development of mechanics."
As a philosopher Mach was a empirical positivist, meaning that he
considered it meaningless to speak of things that cannot be verified
empirically. Mach's positivist attitude was so strong that he even refused
to acknowledge the existence of atoms on the grounds that no one had ever
The frequency theory of von Mises is true to that same philosophy of
science; according to frequentists it is meaningless to speak of the
probability of an outcome except in terms of the empirical frequency of
that outcome in a collection of observations.
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