Conditional probability from an ontological point of view

Abstract

This paper argues that the technical notion of conditional probability, as given by the ratio analysis, is unsuitable for dealing with our pretheoretical and intuitive understanding of both conditionality and probability. This is an ontological account of conditionals that include an irreducible dispositional connection between the antecedent and consequent conditions and where the conditional has to be treated as an indivisible whole rather than compositional. The relevant type of conditionality is found in some well-defined group of conditional statements. As an alternative, therefore, we briefly offer grounds for what we would call an ontological reading: for both conditionality and conditional probability in general. It is not offered as a fully developed theory of conditionality but can be used, we claim, to explain why calculations according to the RATIO scheme does not coincide with our intuitive notion of conditional probability. What it shows us is that for an understanding of the whole range of conditionals we will need what John Heil (2003), in response to Quine (1953), calls an ontological point of view.

Author Profiles

Stephen Mumford
Durham University
Rani Anjum
University of Tromsø (PhD)

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