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Socrates Café Newtown: What Probability Probably Is

Probability plays an important role in all of our lives, from weather forecasts to medical diagnoses, from election forecasts to earthquake predictions, and much, much more.

Indeed, probability talk is so commonplace that we would be forgiven for thinking that probability itself is familiar and well understood. Fortunately, for the philosophically minded at least, probability is anything but well understood.

Probability theory gives rise to a number of rich and interesting philosophical questions such as: should we understand probabilities as something in our heads or something out in the world? How should we interpret probability statements about single-case events such as the probability of rain tomorrow? And why are we so bad at probabilistic reasoning?

Mark Colyvan will argue that although we know a lot about probability theory, there is much more to learn. And this "much more" has a decidedly philosophical flavour.

Mark Colyvan is Professor of Philosophy, ARC Future Fellow, and Director of the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science at the University of Sydney. He is also President Elect of the Society for Risk Analysis (Australia and New Zealand).

Then it's up to us to bounce around our own perspectives on probability in the following discussion!

The next Socrates Café Newtown, held on 13th February from 6.30pm at Berkelouw Books at 6-8 O’Connell Street Newtown, Sydney.

The meeting will kick off with a 30 minute talk by Mark. Following a few minutes for questions, we'll move into the open discussion. At that point, we'll break off into groups, and discuss the topic at our leisure.

During this time, Mark will join each discussion group for a brief period, giving everyone a chance to bounce ideas around with him. After about 45 minutes, we'll reconvene and share the issues discussed in each group.

Socrates Café has a $5 door charge, which includes a tea or coffee from the café.

Note: there is no RSVP limit on this event. Seats in the café are limited (around 70 all up) so arrive early to secure your spot! If you arrive late, it may be standing room only!

Hope to see you there!

Join or login to comment.

  • A former member
    A former member

    I had to leave early before the first speech finished but it was very interesting. this topic should be repeated sometime again. I think. thanks for the organizers.

    February 14, 2013

  • Helen

    Good choice of topic but damn the probable became mission impossible I missed it but hope to make the next one.

    I think probability is at the basis of most of our decision as opposed to chance or coincidence that is much more random or is it?

    I would have loved to learn "much more" about the topic!

    February 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    what is the probability that a talk on probability would be probably very insightful ? It was

    1 · February 13, 2013

    • Alex

      according to the frequency theory, zero

      February 14, 2013

  • Jake A.

    argh. couldnt leave the office on time so I wont be able to make it..Next time ill be there

    February 13, 2013

  • Ken W.

    Aah! Conflicting appointment, so probability of attendance is almost zero. Sigh!

    February 11, 2013


    Sorry, Leeanne and I have to opt out tonight. Hopefully we'll see you all next month. :-)

    February 10, 2013

  • Aragon T.

    Now we are into recommendations I strongly recommend "God and other minds" by Alvin Plantinga
    See you Wednsday week

    February 10, 2013

  • George T

    May I recommend Gods debris by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. The connection with probability was enlightening to me. It can be found freely on the net as Scott Adams originally released it as a free PDF (see end of wikipedia article)'s_Debris

    February 10, 2013

  • Jake A.

    Hope to make it on time after work

    February 9, 2013

  • Joffre

    I used to do econometrics. I'm interested in perspectives on what probability is.

    February 8, 2013

  • Peter D M.

    What Socrates would have said on probability? answer: we should always aim for certainty.

    February 8, 2013


    Leeanne I look forward to reacquaint ourselves with our friendly philosophers! :-)

    February 4, 2013

  • Lisa

    Unfortunately I can't make it that night

    January 31, 2013

  • Linda K

    It'll probably be a good night

    January 30, 2013

  • Aragon T.

    Please Delano; if it.s possibilities is within the frame scenario of what Aristotle state about the "contingency futures" meaning uncountable considering the time as "what stop things happen at once"
    Sometime we should think before open our mouths

    January 30, 2013

  • Julie L.

    Ill be in melbourne

    January 30, 2013

  • Delano S.

    How do you calculate that probability?

    January 30, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Fascinating subject that I'm always interested in exploring !

    January 30, 2013

  • sharon C.

    Guest Name - James Clacher

    January 30, 2013

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