Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 43, 2008

Philosophy of Natural Sciences

Grzegorz Bugajak
Pages 7-15

On The Notion of Chance and Its Application in Natural Sciences

The notion of chance plays an important role in some philosophical analyses and interpretations of scientific theories. The most obvious examples of that are the theories of evolution and quantum mechanics. This notion, however seems to be notoriously vague. Its application in such analyses, more often than not refers to its common-sense understanding, which, by definition, cannot be sufficient when it comes to sound philosophical interpretations of scientific achievements. The paper attempts at formulating a ‘typology of chance’. It distinguishes eight different meanings of this notion. Those meanings can be found in classical philosophical accounts of chance, in the common usage of this term, or form logical possibilities of its understanding. Subsequently, the paper points to those forms of the notion in question which may and may not be properly applied to scientific theories and ideas – given usual characteristics of natural sciences. It also shows – by the examples of particular theories mentioned above – which of the distinguished forms of the notion of chance are actually applicable in the context of these theories.