I'm trying to understand how Bayes formula helps us make guesses about the past.

What are your thoughts about the following philosophical metaphor regarding claims about events in the past?

Whenever we discuss something that has happened in the past, we are always discussing something abstract which we can't know 100% is true aka a web of guesses. When we try to establish what has happened in the past based on evidence it is similar to throwing a one "magic dart" into the past hoping to hit a big red ballon(big=high probability) which gives us a high score instead of hitting small low probability ballons.

What Bayes theorem does is to help us find where the big red balloon is most likely to be located before we throw the dart.

The base rate is which area that usually have a big red balloon and the evidence adjusts the location we should aim for.

Epistemically we are only justified to throw the dart into the area which has a red balloon to score the highest possible.

Many thanks

  • 1
    How is this specific to the past? When we try to establish anything based on evidence, about the past, future, a perpetual process without a time stamp, or even some timeless abstraction, we have prior knowledge ("red balloon") and new evidence ("thrown dart"), and we update the prior based on how well the "balloon" was hit by the "dart". And sometimes we have little control over where the "dart" gets "thrown" (what new sources, say, are unearthed), so we are well justified to make do with what we can have.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 19:17
  • Thanks Conifold! I got stuck in my thinking about the past. Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 23:04


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .