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Chance Encounter

The Departement of Theoretical Philosophy of the University of Groningen hosts the third Chance Encounter (view research project page) on June 6, 2014. (time table below)

Admission is free. Everybody is cordially invited!


Unsharp Best System Chances, by Luke Fenton-Glynn (UCL)

Much recent philosophical attention has been devoted to variants on the Best System Analysis of laws and chance. In particular, philosophers have been interested in the prospects of such Best System Analyses (BSAs) for yielding *high-level* laws and chances. Nevertheless, a foundational worry about BSAs lurks: there do not appear to be uniquely appropriate measures of the degree to which a system exhibits theoretical virtues, such as simplicity and strength. Nor does there appear to be a uniquely correct exchange rate at which the theoretical virtues of simplicity, strength, and likelihood (or *fit*) trade off against one another in the determination of a best system. Moreover, it may be that there is no *robustly* best system: no system that comes out best under *any* reasonable measures of the theoretical virtues and exchange rate between them. This worry has been noted by several philosophers, with some arguing that there is indeed plausibly a set of tied-for-best systems for our world (specifically, a set of very good systems, but no robustly *best* system). Some have even argued that this entails that there are no Best System laws or chances in our world. I argue that, while it *is* plausible that there is a set of tied-for-best systems for our world, it doesn't follow from this that there are no Best System chances. (As I will argue, the situation with regard to laws is more complex.) Rather, it follows that (some of) the Best System chances for our world are *unsharp*.

The Problem of Initial Conditions, by Michael Strevens (NYU)

Dynamic approaches to understanding probability in the non-fundamental sciences turn on special properties of physical processes that are apt to produce "probabilistically patterned" outcomes. The dynamic properties on their own, however, are never quite sufficient to produce the patterns; in addition, some sort of probabilistic assumption about initial conditions must be made. What grounds the initial condition assumption? That is the problem of initial conditions. In this paper I draw on ideas from two earlier publications to provide a partial solution.

Time Table

13:15 Luke Fenton-Glynn (UC London) "Unsharp Best System Chances"

14:30 Commentary by Patryk Dziurosz-Serafinowicz (Groningen) and discussion

15:00 Coffee, tea and cookies

15:30 Michael Strevens (NYU) "The Problem of Initial Conditions"
16:45 Commentary by Victor Gijsbers (Leiden) and discussion

17:15 Drinks and dinner
Last modified:05 June 2014 12.18 p.m.