On 'Probability'
: A Case of Down to Earth Humean Propensities

  • Nicos Stylianou

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Bertrand Russell once said that ‘probability’ is the most important concept in modern science, especially as nobody has the slightest notion what it means. Little has changed since Russell’s pronouncement. Despite the fact that ‘probability’ appears across the entire spectrum of scientific theories, there does not seem to be even an approximate agreement among philosophers regarding what probability is. Although all the standard interpretations of the concept of probability capture some of the intuitions we assign to the term ‘probability’, a consensus has been reached in the
literature that none provides a satisfactory definition of the term as it appears across our currently best physical probabilistic theories. Nonetheless, in order to take seriously what these probabilistic physical theories say about the world, one must be able to tell what the probabilistic assertions in these theories mean. That is to say, what makes these probabilistic assertions true (or false). The main purpose of this study is to provide an analysis of the concept of probability that allows one to take seriously what probabilistic assertions in physical theories say about the world
given one’s commitment that they are an objective description of it. The question investigated is thus the following: What could probabilistic assertions in physical theories possibly mean given one’s commitment to their objectivity?
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorCatrin Campbell-Moore (Supervisor) & Samir Okasha (Supervisor)


  • Interpretations of Probability
  • Propensity
  • Superdeterminism
  • Best System Analysis
  • Chance
  • Quantum Probabilities

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