Oxford University Press (OUP);
Oxford University Press
Though almost forty years have elapsed since its first publication, it is a testament to the philosophical acumen of its author that 'The Matter of Chance' contains much that is of continued interest to the philosopher of science. Mellor advances a sophisticated propensity theory of chance, arguing that this theory makes better sense than its rivals (in particular subjectivist, frequentist, logical and classical theories) of ‘what professional usage shows to be thought true of chance’ (p. xi)–in particular ‘that chance is objective, empirical and not relational, and that it applies to the single case’ (ibid.). The book is short and dense, with the serious philosophical content delivered thick and fast. There is little by way of road-mapping or summarising to assist the reader: the introduction is hardly expansive and the concluding paragraph positively perfunctory. The result is that the book is often difficult going, and the reader is made to work hard to ensure correct understanding of the views expressed. On the other hand, the author’s avoidance of unnecessary use of formalism and jargon ensures that the book is still reasonably accessible. In the following, I shall first summarise the key features of Mellor’s propensity theory, and then offer a few critical remarks.