Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Zoom Talk: John Cantwell (Stockholm)

Meeting ID: 925-6562-2309

03.12.2020 16:00  – 18:00 

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Revisiting McGee's probabilistic analysis of conditionals


This paper calls for a re-appraisal of McGee's analysis of the semantics, logic and probabilities of indicative conditionals presented in his 1989 paper "Conditional probabilities and compounds of conditionals". The probabilistic measures introduced by McGee are given a new -- hopefully more intuitive -- axiomatisation, and a more transparent method of constructing such measures is provided. McGee's Dutch book argument is restructured to more clearly reveal that it introduces a novel contribution to the epistemology of semantic indeterminacy, and shows that its more controversial implications are unavoidable if we want to maintain the Ramsey Test along with the standard laws of probability. Importantly, it is shown that the counterexamples that have been levelled at McGee's analysis -- generating a rather wide consensus that it yields 'unintuitive' or 'wrong' probabilities for compounds -- fail to strike at their intended target; for to honour the intuitions of the counterexamples one must either give up the Ramsey Test or the standard laws of probability. It will be argued that we need to give up neither if we take the counterexamples as further evidence that the indicative conditional sometimes allows for a non-epistemic 'causal' interpretation alongside its usual epistemic interpretation.