The method for hitting the most probable

The first criteria to identify science was Aristotle’s: science is certain and all else is doxa. Science gave up on conclusions transcending doxa but held out hope that it could be identified by some method. So science becomes the method to find what is most probable.

Two problems:

1.) Probability is secondary or instrumental. Probability is a development of background assumptions, which you can say are probable but you can’t treat that way. Far from being a modest, humble approach where we settle for the probable, science becomes a way of systematically forgetting what we’re treating as certain.

2.) So far as probability is real, it is unintelligible. Probability is an index of uncertainty and so of our minds. Something like this is in the world too, but it is chance, which might make for an interesting story but not one where there is any intelligible connection between the terms. And no, a Parmenidean-Einsteinian block universe does not make all narratives necessary. To say that there is a unification of all physical events is to say infinitely less than that there is a unification of all physical events under all possible descriptions. A chance event might have a narrative (after it happens) but it needn’t have a (human) logos.




  1. robalspaugh said,

    December 29, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Not to be cheeky, but…is there such a thing as “most” probable? Maybe by stipulation, but rational inquiry has ended at that point, right? I am shooting for the corollary of your 1.), but looking at the end limit instead of the starter limit.

    • December 29, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      I was thinking of “most probable” as whatever method got the most probable findings, but it’s hard to see how one is supposed to compare the probabilities of the sciences to the other probabilities of other, non scientific ways of looking at the world.

      (one would suppose any computation of probability would be considered scientific in the relevant sense… so, what exactly is “most probable” supposed to mean?)

  2. WMBriggs said,

    January 1, 2016 at 7:18 am

    There is no such thing as most (or least or whatever) probable. Since probability is of the mind, it depends on a relation, therefore probability changes depending on the relation, i.e. conditions. What is likely given one condition can be unlikely given another.

    What are author says about chance strikes me as right. But I see he has continued this topic in another thread.

  3. robalspaugh said,

    January 1, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Thanks, SttS! I was thinking something more crude: the “most probable” is 1. If we are abandoning certitude and insisting on the realm less than 1, we get stuck in an infinite approach to 1. Science in this sense has reintroduced Xeno’s paradox. “Most probable” then just means whenever we shrug and stop inquiring.

    Happy New Year to you (and you, James).

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