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Why does statistics matter to philosophy?

Otsuka, Jun (2021) Why does statistics matter to philosophy? Tetsugaku-Kenkyu (The Journal of Philosophical Studies), 606. pp. 1-24. ISSN 0386-9563

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This article explores the intersection of philosophy and statistics by examining the philosophical assumptions underlying modern mathematical statistics from ontological and epistemological perspectives. Statistics holds interest for philosophers engaged with the problem of induction, as its mathematical apparatus serves as models for philosophical ideas. For instance, the much-discussed concepts of the uniformity of nature and natural kinds correspond to probability models and statistical models, which are fundamental to various statistical methods. Similarly, Dennett’s concept of a real pattern echoes the spirit of various information criteria (such as AIC) used to determine the optimal level of complexity for maximizing a model’s predictive ability. Furthermore, the recent developments in machine learning models, such as deep learning, imply that these machines possess their own 'ontology,' which is potentially more complex and efficient at understanding the world than ours. This leads to a Quinean problem of radical translation between human and machine ontologies. We suggest that this issue is key to the successful application of AI technologies in our society. The other focus of this article is epistemology, where Bayesian and classical statistics are compared to internalist and externalist epistemologies, respectively. This comparison elucidates how and in what sense the statistical methods adopted in each camp are considered to justify scientific hypotheses and also sheds light on their epistemic problems. We conclude with a plea for more research and interdisciplinary dialogues between statistics and the philosophy of various traditions.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Otsuka, Junjunotk@gmail.com0000-0003-4774-9740
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Epistemology
Specific Sciences > Artificial Intelligence
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Depositing User: Jun Otsuka
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2024 18:31
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2024 18:31
Item ID: 22945
Journal or Publication Title: Tetsugaku-Kenkyu (The Journal of Philosophical Studies)
Publisher: The Kyoto Philosophical Society
Official URL:
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Epistemology
Specific Sciences > Artificial Intelligence
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Date: 2021
Page Range: pp. 1-24
Volume: 606
ISSN: 0386-9563

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