We are a Working Group devoted to the discussion of historical and philosophical issues in symbolic logic, mathematics, and science. We meet on occasional Wednesday evenings for a talk and a lively discussion. The group is funded by the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Department of Philosophy.

All members of the academic community are welcome to attend. We have regular participants in many different fields, including philosophy, mathematics, history of science, and psychology.

The group organizers are Lara Buchak (Philosophy), Wesley Holliday (Philosophy), John MacFarlane (Philosophy), Paolo Mancosu (Philosophy), and Seth Yalcin (Philosophy).

Our next event

April 27, 2016, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Hugh Mellor (Cambridge University)

Chance and Determinism

By ‘chances’ I mean the objective empirical probabilities posited by sciences ranging from microphysics through genetics to epidemiology. I hold, and will briefly argue, that they are properties of individuals, like a single coin toss’s chance of landing heads, rather than actual or hypothetical frequencies. If so, chances between 0 and 1 seem incompatible with determinism, the thesis that everything has a sufficient cause, i.e. one that makes its chance 1. I shall argue, on the contrary, that because chances are properties not of what we ascribe them to but of their prospective causes, the result, e.g. heads, of a coin toss can both be determined and have a chance that is less than 1. The former explains why this toss landed heads; the latter the frequency with which many tosses with the same chance of landing heads actually do so.