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Episode 45: Anubav Vasudevan discusses probability and determinism

This month, we talk with Anubav Vasudevan (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago) about whether there’s any conflict between objective probability and determinism.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Anubav VasudevanSuppose I say there’s a 50/50 chance that when I toss a coin, it will land heads.  Is that statement objectively true or false?  Am I describing a physical fact about the coin, the air, and the tabletop?  Or is it just a subjective statement about how certain I am that the coin will land heads?  Maybe, when I say there’s a 50/50 chance that the coin will land heads, all I’m saying is that I have no particular reason to place a bet on one particular outcome over the other.  For all I know, either outcome is equally likely.  On the one model, when I talk about probabilities, I’m describing physical facts about the way the world works.  On the other, when I talk about probabilities, I’m describing my own ignorance.

In this week’s episode, Anubav Vasudevan argues that philosophers have tended to dismiss the idea that future events have objective probabilities because they intuitively feel that it’s incompatible with determinism, the idea that all future events are determined by the state of the present.  But Vasudevan thinks the predominant intuition is off base: in fact, these two ideas are perfectly compatible, and thus my belief that the world is either deterministic or indeterministic shouldn’t affect my belief one way or the other about whether probabilities are objective or subjective.

Tune in to hear an exciting new argument for why!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Podcast.

5 Responses

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  1. Samuel T. X. Khoo says

    I know it’s rather late—are there any further readings or references for this topic, especially for Anubav’s thoughts on it?

    • Samuel T. X. Khoo says

      I’m particularly interested in the idea that logical reasoning and probabilistic reasoning are fundamentally different, and that logic isn’t a special case of probability.

      • Matt Teichman says

        Hi Samuel,

        Cool question! I put a query out, and I’ll get back to you once I hear back.

  2. Bill Morrison says

    Heard back yet? Also very interested in reading more.

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