Rational Belief and the Common Cause Principle

  • Bas C. van Fraassen
Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 1)


During the past decade, Wesley Salmon has successively refined and elaborated Reichenbach’s principle of the common cause, as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into statistical inference and explanation. Being as convinced as he of the central importance of the probabilistic concept of common cause, but skeptical of its universal applicability, I have corresponded with Salmon on this subject, and some of that correspondence has made an appearance in both our published writings.2 In this paper I shall try to state exactly what I think is the significance (especially the epistemological significance) of the principle and provide a new (I hope, improved) version of one line of argument in our correspondence. I should emphasize that this has been a very cooperative enterprise: my arguments always began in rather feeble, intuitive form and in answering them, Salmon would gently correct my mistakes, or restate the arguments in a stronger and more precise form than I had managed, and often add striking, concrete illustrations.


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bas C. van Fraassen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoCanada

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