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The Nature of Probability, Its Valid and Invalid Uses

Evan Picoult

Presented at: OCON 2006

Date: Jun 30, 2006

Probability and statistics are mathematical concepts used extensively in the physical and biological sciences, in engineering and in finance. Probability has two related but different meanings. One is the assessment of the evidentiary status of propositions along the continuum from false to possible to probable to certain. This course, in contrast, will focus on probability as the measurement of the frequency of occurrence of potential states of random physical and economic processes. Randomness will be explained as an epistemological, not metaphysical, concept.

This course will explain the proper definition and epistemological status of the concept of probability by reviewing its conceptual development in the 17th–19th centuries and by examining its valid and invalid uses across a range of subjects, from games of chance through physics and finance.

Topics will include: the relation of probability, correlation and causality; statistical mechanics, entropy and Maxwell's Demon; probability and methods for measuring value and risk in finance.


Parts: 4

Handout: none


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