A Critique of Empiricist Propensity Theories

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Suárez, Mauricio
preprint description
I analyse critically what I regard as the most accomplished empiricist account of propensities, namely the long run propensity theory developed by Donald Gillies (2000). Empiricist accounts are distinguished by their commitment to the ‘identity thesis’: the identification of propensities and objective probabilities. These theories are intended, in the tradition of Karl Popper’s influential proposal, to provide an interpretation of probability (under a suitable version of Kolmogorov’s axioms) that renders probability statements directly testable by experiment. I argue that the commitment to the identity thesis leaves empiricist theories, including Gillies’ version, vulnerable to a variant of what is known as Humphreys’ paradox. I suggest that the tension may be resolved only by abandoning the identity thesis, and by adopting instead an understanding of propensities as explanatory properties of chancy objects.