There are quite a few philosophical interpretations of probability. But how can we know which one, if any, is the correct interpretation? How do we decide that? What method would we use to even decide that? I would also like to know what philosophers have written about this.

  • A good start is plato.stanford.edu/entries/probability-interpret/#ClaPro Please let us know which philosophical interpretations of probability you took into consideration.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jan 15 at 23:17
  • 3
    Why would you assume that only one interpretation can be correct? We might consider that any quantity can be considered to be a probability if and only if it obeys the probability calculus. So the real questions are, for a given property, is there good reason to suppose it obeys the probability calculus? And, is it useful to treat it as a probability?
    – Bumble
    Commented Jan 16 at 6:45
  • toss a coin! 🤑😘😜😂🤣
    – xerx593
    Commented Jan 16 at 17:30

4 Answers 4


Probability and statistics are models. Models can be useful, functional, convenient, appropriate, and/or self-consistent, but that is always shades of gray. They are never correct or incorrect in any absolute sense.

  • I agree with the tendency of this, however trying to be precise with terminology, statistics as a whole isn't a model but uses models. (I was thinking about whether probability can be called "model" not meaning any specific probability model, but I think it can, in a certain sense at least.) Commented Feb 16 at 23:52

This is not an exclusive alternative. Various interpretations can be enriched to incorporate the insights of other theories. For example, 'bayesianism' isn't at all uniform. In bayesian epistemology and decision theory, you can conditionalize using, ex. Jeffrey conditionalization or strict conditionalization. Objective probabilities featured in non-bayesian theories of probability can be incorporated into bayesianism too.


In part it depends on what you mean by "correct". There is a danger of an infinite regress here, asking what the "correct" meaning of "correct" is.

If there were one and only one such answer that is self-evidently correct, then philosophers would not have come up with as many answers that they have done.

For an organisation that uses probability theory to make decisions (for example an insurance company, or a casino) the "most correct" meaning of probability is any that helps the organisation come up with useful answers, in other words the "most useful". That, however, is answering a different question...


Anyone who truly questions everything must bump up against this question. But questions sometimes only give rise to more questions.

I contend: any claim, utterance, proposition, or question, leads to an infinitude of different directions of subsequent thought. For example:

1: “Any claim, utterance, proposition, or question, leads to an infinitude of different directions of subsequent thought.” 1.1: Or does it? What if not every claim, utterance, or proposition leads to an infinitude of different directions of subsequent thought? 1.1.1 What would that look like? 1.1.2 Does that mean that there may be a vast number of directions, just not infinite, which is far too large? How can I determine the answer to this question? Well, perhaps I could (…) 1.2 How do you know? 1.2.1 I know because I have witnessed this happening sufficiently in my life to believe this. But is that a good enough reason to say you ‘know’ this? Yes, because (…) No, because (…) 1.3 If so, why? 1.3.1 Does it have something to do with the combinatorial richness and infinitude of human concepts and how then can interact? 1.4: What do you mean by “claim”? 1.5: Why did you specifically choose the list of four items, “claim, utterance, proposition, or question”? 1.6: Are you sure they are ‘infinite’? What if there are trains of thought that both lead to similar questions; and so there are actually only a finite number of deep directions, foundational thinking would arrive at? (After all, there are only so many subtopics, in philosophy.) 1.7: What do you mean? (I.e., “please clarify”). (…)

One may imagine the above conversation endlessly splitting into new sub-branches, evolving in independent lanes, though sometimes possibly crossing over into a neighboring one. Thus: nobody knows where to begin from (in the sense of, what methods, truths, assertions, or even conceptual framework are you supposed to work within, were you to wishfully “properly”, deterministically answer any philosophical question with generality, much like the algebraic formula they teach you in high school mathematics, or arranging IKEA furniture from an instruction manual). Also, nobody knows what the “beginning” even is (I mean, not only do people not know what propositions are most primary, but they arguably are barely capable of coherently stating that there would even be such a thing, with any certainty, or explaining why). That question of “where to begin” is itself a varied philosophical topic. Phenomenologists take moment-to-moment existence as the tabula rasa of understanding, and we must begin from those things that we cannot deny that we are aware of, like our own thoughts, perceptions, sensations, cognitions, etc. But there are different, competing theories, answering this question.

Because there is no universal, agreed-upon philosophical method or school of thought, I advocate starting from first principles, but the way you do that may be unique, because it unevadeably is based on an enormous amount of prior knowledge and understanding you latently have. This is clear given how different the philosophical approach has been in different periods of history - no matter how stripped down people may think their approach is, it seems very likely that it is still already colored by some background assumptions they are exposed to. Even the way we try to avoid bias has its own bias.

I may update this answer with my own personal account of what probability is, but for now, I think the question really was about meta-philosophy. This is a quintessential metaphilosophy question. Not what are the contents of philosophy, but the methods. Yet when the methods of philosophy become the content of philosophy itself, we enter a slippery realm of inquiry where we lose our handholds and everything can be cast into doubt.


First principles

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    This text is totally unrelated to the OP's question. Please clarify or delete it.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jan 16 at 7:05

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