Probability describes an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we are not certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The certainty we adopt can be described in terms of a numerical measure and this number, between 0 and 1, we call probability. The higher the probability of an event, the more certain we are that the event will occur. Thus, probability in an applied sense is a measure of the likeliness that a (random) event will occur.
The concept has been given an axiomatic mathematical derivation in probability theory, which is used widely in such areas of study as mathematics, statistics, finance, gambling, science, artificial intelligence/machine learning and philosophy to, for example, draw inferences about the likeliness of events. Probability is used to describe the underlying mechanics and regularities of complex systems.
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- Probability is the very guide of life.
- Cicero, De Natura, 5, 12; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 634. Quoted by Bishop Butler. Also used by Richard Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, Book I, Chapter VIII., and, Book II, Chapter VII. Found in John Locke, Essays, Book IV, Chapter XV. Also in Hobbes' Leviathan.
- No human being can give an eternal resolution to another or take it from him; If someone objects that then one might just as well be silent if there is no probability of winning others, he thereby has merely shown that although his life very likely thrived and prospered in probability and everyone of his undertakings in the service of probability went forward, he has never really ventured and consequently has never had or given himself the opportunity to consider that probability is an illusion, but to venture the truth is what gives human life and the human situation pith and meaning, to venture is the fountainhead of inspiration, whereas probability is the sworn enemy of enthusiasm, the mirage whereby the sensate person drags out time and keeps the eternal away, whereby he cheats God, himself, and his generation: cheats God of the honor, himself of liberating annihilation, and his generation of the equality of conditions.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Four Upbuilding Discourses (31 August 1844) in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 382.
- The epistemological value of probability theory is based on the fact that chance phenomena, considered collectively and on a grand scale, create non-random regularity.
- Andrey Kolmogorov, Limit Distributions for Sums of Independent Random Variables, tr. K. L. Chung, Addison Wesley, 1954
- As is known, the question of the objectivity or the subjectivity of probability has divided the world of science into two camps. Some maintain that there exist two types of probability, as above, others, that only the subjective exists, because regardless of what is supposed to take place, we cannot have full knowledge of it. Therefore, some lay the uncertainty of future events at the door of our knowledge of them, whereas others place it within the realm of the events themselves.
- Stanisław Lem, "De Impossibilitate Vitae and De Impossibilitate Vitae Prognoscendi", in A Perfect Vacuum (1971), tr. Michael Kandel (1978).