Probability Assignments and the Principle of Indifference. An Examination of Two Eliminative Strategies

  • Sorin BanguEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 347)


The Principle of Indifference (PI) – roughly, the claim that equipossibility entails equiprobability – has long been regarded with suspicion by philosophers and scientists alike. This hostility has a twofold motivation. On one hand, there are the well-known inconsistencies (Bertrand paradoxes) to which the use of the principle leads. On the other, there are some general metaphysical and epistemological worries regarding the principle’s support for the idea that the occurrence of events in the physical world should follow ‘the directives of human ignorance’, as Reichenbach ([1949]/1971, 354) put it. These concerns naturally led philosophers to design strategies to eliminate PI from probabilistic reasoning. In this paper I examine two such strategies and argue that they are not successful. This conclusion, however, should not count so much as an endorsement of PI, but rather as an indication that another approach to explicating its role in probabilistic reasoning is needed.


Statistical Significance Test Outcome Space Smoothness Assumption Probabilistic Hypothesis Epistemic Role 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank Margaret Morrison, Peter Urbach, Colin Howson, Bob Batterman, Anjan Chakravartty, Ranpal Dosanjh and Kaave Lajevardi for discussions and critical comments on earlier versions of this paper. I also thank Mauricio Suarez for encouraging feedback and for stirring up my interest in these issues. Any mistakes that remain are mine. Financial support for working on this paper was kindly provided by the Rotman Postdoctoral Fellowship in Philosophy of Science at the University of Western Ontario.


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© Springer Netherlands 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA

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