What is the course about?
Traditional logic assumes that starting from true premises we can derive valid deductions. But in real life it's not always so easy to settle on premises that we know to be true. Instead we work with information we have good reasons to trust, or believe might be the case, or think is likely to happen. In these cases we cannot know with certainty. In order to make decisions, conduct scientific research and take action, we must base our reasoning on approximations, estimates and forecasts or the results of surveys and experiments, which we can continually update as new information becomes available. On this course we examine mathematical techniques for coping with uncertainty alongside the philosophical debates they raise. Along the way we cover the basics of probability and game theory and examine some specific examples from the worlds of science and finance.
What will we cover?
• Classical probability: methods and simple calculations
• Interpreting statistics - some common pitfalls
• The frequentist and subjective belief interpretations of probability
• Updating probabilities in light of new information: Bayesian inference
• Problems of induction and reproducibility in science
• Financial approaches to the future: risk and forecasting
• Game theory.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Carry out simple probability calculations.
• Avoid common mistakes in interpreting statistics and spot when others make them.
• Assess the positions of frequentists and Bayesians.
• Describe and assess philosophical views on the reliability of scientific findings.
• Understand some of the ways through which risk is approached in the worlds of finance and business.
• Use ideas from game theory to analyse appropriate situations.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course. Most mathematical topics are introduced from scratch but you may want to refresh your memory about adding and multiplying fractions and percentages before the first session.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The sessions will be a mixture of lecture/demonstration and discussion. We suggest readings for between classes but these are entirely optional; pointers for further reading are provided at the end.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
There are no additional costs or required materials.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
City Lit runs a programme of term-long courses in Philosophy with a mathematical theme, any of which would naturally follow on from this one.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details