Probability and rational choice

David Botting


In this paper I will discuss the rationality of reasoning about the future. There are two things that we might like to know about the future: which hypotheses are true and what will happen next. To put it in philosophical language, I aim to show that there are methods by which inferring to a generalization (selecting a hypothesis) and inferring to the next instance (singular predictive inference) can be shown to be normative and the method itself shown to be rational, where this is due in part to being based on evidence (although not in the same way) and in part on a prior rational choice. I will also argue that these two inferences have been confused, being distinct not only conceptually (as nobody disputes) but also in their results (the value given to the probability of the hypothesis being not in general that given to the next instance) and that methods that are adequate for one are not by themselves adequate for the other. A number of debates over method founder on this confusion and do not show what the debaters think they show.


Probability; rational choice; confirmation of hypotheses; singular predictive inference; inductivism; falsificationism

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Principia: an internationnal journal of epistemology
Published by NEL - Epistemology and Logic Research Group
Federal University of Santa Catarina - UFSC
Center of Philosophy and Human Sciences – CFH
Campus Reitor João David Ferreira Lima
Florianópolis, Santa Catarina - Brazil
CEP: 88040-900

 ISSN: 1414-4217
EISSN: 1808-171