One purpose -- quite a few thinkers would say the main purpose -- of seeking knowledge about the world is to enhance our ability to make good decisions. An item of knowledge that can make no conceivable difference with regard to anything we might do would strike many as frivolous. Whether or not we want to be philosophical pragmatists in this strong sense with regard to everything we might want to enquire about, it seems a perfectly appropriate attitude to adopt toward artificial knowledge systems. If is granted that we are ultimately concerned with decisions, then some constraints are imposed on our measures of uncertainty at the level of decision making. If our measure of uncertainty is real-valued, then it isn't hard to show that it must satisfy the classical probability axioms. For example, if an act has a real-valued utility U(E) if the event E obtains, and the same real-valued utility if the denial of E obtains, so that U(E) = U(-E), then the expected utility of that act must be U(E), and that must be the same as the uncertainty-weighted average of the returns of the act, p-U(E) + q-U('E), where p and q represent the uncertainty of E and-E respectively. But then we must have p + q = 1.
The apparent failure of individual probabilistic expressions to distinguish uncertainty about truths from uncertainty about probabilistic assessments have prompted researchers to seek formalisms where the two types of uncertainties are given notational distinction. This paper demonstrates that the desired distinction is already a built-in feature of classical probabilistic models, thus, specialized notations are unnecessary.
There are two common but quite distinct interpretations of probabilities: they can be interpreted as a measure of the extent to which an agent believes an assertion, i.e., as an agent's degree of belief, or they can be interpreted as an assertion of relative frequency, i.e., as a statistical measure. Used as statistical measures probabilities can represent various assertions about the objective statistical state of the world, while used as degrees of belief they can represent various assertions about the subjective state of an agent's beliefs. In this paper we examine how an agent who knows certain statistical facts about the world might infer probabilistic degrees of beliefs in other assertions from these statistics. For example, an agent who knows that most birds fly (a statistical fact) may generate a degree of belief greater than 0.5 in the assertion that
We present a semantics for adding uncertainty to conditional logics for default reasoning and belief revision. We are able to treat conditional sentences as statements of conditional probability, and express rules for revision such as "If A were believed, then B would be believed to degree p." This method of revision extends conditionalization by allowing meaningful revision by sentences whose probability is zero. This is achieved through the use of counterfactual probabilities. Thus, our system accounts for the best properties of qualitative methods of update (in particular, the AGM theory of revision) and probabilistic methods. We also show how our system can be viewed as a unification of probability theory and possibility theory, highlighting their orthogonality and providing a means for expressing the probability of a possibility. We also demonstrate the connection to Lewis's method of imaging.