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Towards an epistemic theory of probability.

Lagnado, David Albert; (1991) Towards an epistemic theory of probability. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D.), University College London. Green open access

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Abstract

The main concern of this thesis is to develop an epistemic conception of probability. In chapter one we look at Ramsey's work. In addition to his claim that the axioms of probability ace laws of consistency for partial beliefs, we focus attention on his view that the reasonableness of our probability statements does not consist merely in such coherence, but is to be assessed through the vindication of the habits which give rise to them. In chapter two we examine de Finetti's account, and compare it with Ramsey's. One significant point of divergence is de Finetti's claim that coherence is the only valid form of appraisal for probability statements. His arguments for this position depend heavily on the implementation of a Bayesian model for belief change; we argue that such an approach fails to give a satisfactory account of the relation between probabilities and objective facts. In chapter three we stake out the ground for oar own positive proposals - for an account which is non-objective in so far as it does not require the postulation of probabilistic facts, but non-subjective in the sense that probability statements are open to objective forms of appraisal. we suggest that a certain class of probability statements are best interpreted as recommendations of partial belief; these being measurable by the betting quotients that one judges to be fair. Moreover, we argue that these probability statements are open to three main forms of appraisal (each quantifiable through the use of proper scoring rules), namely: (i) Coherence (ii) Calibration (iii) Refinement. The latter two forms of appraisal are applicable both in an ex ante sense (relative to the information known by the forecaster) and an ex post one (relative to the results of the events forecast). In chapters four and five we consider certain problems which confront theories of partial belief; in particular, (1) difficulties surrounding the justification of the rule to maximise one's information, and (2) problems with the ascription of probabilities to mathematical propositions. Both of these issues seem resolvable; the first through the principle of maximising expected utility (SEU), and the second either by amending the axioms of probability, or by making use of the notion that probabilities are appraisable via scoring rules. There do remain, however, various difficulties with SEU, in particular with respect to its application in real-life situations. These are discussed, but no final conclusion reached, except that an epistemic theory such as ours is not undermined by the inapplicability of SEU in certain situations.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D.
Title: Towards an epistemic theory of probability.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis Digitised by Proquest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10124347
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