Hot on the heels of our discussion of hypotheses comes this: a discussion of Bayesian reasoning.
Bayesian (pronounced "bays-ian") reasoning is named after Bayes' theorem. In the 18th century, the Reverend Thomas Bayes derived a theorem that tells us how to update our beliefs in light of new evidence. The theorem remained in obscurity for much of the 20th century, partly because many of its most astounding successes involved classified military projects (breaking the WWII German Enigma code, and locating sunken submarines and thermonuclear weapons). In recent years, Bayesian reasoning has gained prominence, and it's now regarded as the gold standard of rational inference.
For philosophers, Bayes' theorem is relevant in many ways. First, it's conceptual scheme allows us to think very clearly about any inference from experience. The theorem shows us what it is about a hypothesis that makes it relevant to what we experience, and it suggests a criterion for calling something an explanation.
Second, Bayes' theorem helps us see the interrelationship between deduction, induction and abduction. We also gain insight into the difference between intelligence, creativity and rationality.
Finally, Bayesian reasoning is relevant to some important philosophical claims, such as Hume's position on miracles, design arguments for god, Occam's razor, and the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
The meeting will open with a 30-40 minute presentation to give us an intuitive understanding of Bayes' theorem.
There will be handouts for those who can attend, and I'll try to post a copy here ahead of time.
Here are some discussion notes: http://files.meetup.com/1470198/DiscussionNotesforBayesianReasoning.pdf