# Axioms of Probability

In order to compute probabilities, one must restrict themselves to collections of subsets of the arbitrary space $\Omega$ known as **$\sigma$-algebras**. Due to the Banach-Tarski paradox, it turns out that assigning probability measures to any collection of sets without taking into consideration the set's cardinality will yield contradictions. Thus, a special class of sets must be adhered to in order to correctly define the notion of a probability measure.

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## Set Structures

This section will develop specific types of set structures in which we can compute probabilities.

## Algebras and $\sigma$-algebras

**$\sigma$-algebras** are by far the most important set structure defined here as they are the building blocks for defining probability measures.

A collection, $\mathcal F$, of subsets of $\Omega$, is a

$\sigma$-algebraif1) $\mathcal F$ is closed under complements: if $A \in$ $\mathcal F$ $\implies$ $A^c \in$ $\mathcal F;$

2) $\mathcal F$ is closed under countable unions: if $A_n \in$ $\mathcal F$ $\forall i \in \mathbb N$ $\implies$ $\cup_{i \in \mathbb N} A \in \mathcal F.$

A collection, $\mathcal A$, of subsets of $\Omega$, is an

algebraif1) $\mathcal A$ is closed under complements: if $A \in$ $\mathcal A$ $\implies$ $A^c \in$ $\mathcal A;$

2) $\mathcal a$ is closed under finite unions: if $A_n \in$ $\mathcal A$ $\forall i \in \{1,...,n\}$ $\implies$ $\cup_i A \in \mathcal A.$

Let $\mathcal C$ be a collection of subsets of $\Omega$. We call the smallest $\sigma$-algebra that contains or is generated by $\mathcal C$ as $\sigma(\mathcal C) = \bigcap _{\mathcal \alpha \in \mathcal A } \mathcal F_{\alpha},$ where each $\mathcal F_{\alpha}$ is a $\sigma$-algebra that contains $\mathcal C$.

## Examples of Algebras and $\sigma$-algebras

Define $2^\Omega$ as the set of all subsets of $\Omega$. Since $\forall A \subset \Omega \implies$ $A \in 2^\Omega$, $A^c \in \Omega$ since $A \cup A^c = \Omega$ and thus $A^c \in \Omega$. Let $A_i \subset \Omega\ \forall i \in \mathbb N$, then each $A_i \in 2^\Omega$. Therefore, $\cup_{i \in \mathbb N}A_i \in 2^\Omega$ since $\cup_{i \in \mathbb N}A_i \subset \Omega$. Thus, $2^\Omega$ is a $\sigma$-algebra of subsets of $\Omega$.

I claim that based on the definitions of a $\sigma$-algebra, for any set on $\Omega$, we can always find a generating $\sigma$-algebra, $\mathcal A$, such that $\mathcal A \ne \emptyset$. Since $2^\Omega\$ is a $\sigma$-algebra such that $2^\Omega$ is the set of all subsets of $\Omega$, every $\sigma$-algebra of subsets of $\Omega$ is contained in $2^\Omega$. Therefore, we can always find a $\sigma$-algebra for an arbitrary set $\Omega$. $_\square$

## Dynkin Systems, the $\pi$-$\lambda$ Theorem and Extension Theorems

As it turns out, there are certain set structures that are a fair bit weaker than that of the $\sigma$-algebra but they are considerably useful when attempting to generate $\sigma$-algebras and prove particularly tricky results in probability.

We call a collection of subsets $\mathcal M$ of $\Omega$ a

monotone classif the following hold:1) $\mathcal M$ is closed under increasing unions: if $A_{n} \subset A_{n+1} \forall n ,$ then $\bigcup_{i \in \mathbb N} A_{i} \in \mathcal M.$

2) $\mathcal M$ is closed under decreasing intersections: if $A_{n+1} \subset A_{n} \forall n,$ then $\bigcap_{i \in \mathbb N} A_{i} \in \mathcal M.$

We call a collection $\mathcal P$ of subsets of $\Omega$ a $\pi$-

systemif $\mathcal P$ is closed under finite intersection, i.e.1) $\forall A,B \in$$\mathcal P$ $\implies A \cap B \in \mathcal P.$

A collection $\mathcal L$ is called a $\lambda$-

systemif1) $\Omega \in \mathcal L$

2) $A \in \mathcal L \implies A^c \in \mathcal L$

3) $A_i \in \mathcal L A_i \subset A_{i+1} \forall A_i \implies \bigcup_{n \in \mathbb N} A_{n} \in \mathcal L.$

Let $\mathcal L$ be a $\lambda$-system, then by the definition of a $\lambda$-system we can derive the following property:

2-1) If $A, B \in \mathcal L$ such that $A \subset B$, then $B-A \in \mathcal L.$

Let $\mathcal L$ be a $\lambda$-system. Let $A, B \in \lambda$ such that $A \subset B$. By property 2 and 3 of $\lambda$-systems, since $B \in \mathcal L \implies B^c \in \mathcal L$. Thus, $A \cup B^c \in \mathcal L$ since $A \cap B^c = \emptyset$. Thus, by property 2 again, we see that $A \cup B^c \in \mathcal L \implies (A \cup B^c)^c \in \mathcal L$. By DeMorgan's law, $(A \cup B^c)^c = A^c \cap B = B-A \in \mathcal L$.

Now, assume 1 and 2-1. Since $\Omega \in \mathcal L$ and $A \subset \Omega \implies \Omega-A \in \mathcal L$ and $\Omega - A = \Omega \cap A^c = A^c$. So $A^c \in \mathcal L$, which gives property 2 of $\mathcal L$. $_\square$

**Lemma**: If $\mathcal L$ is a $\pi$-system and a $\lambda$-system, then $\mathcal L$ is a $\sigma$-algebra.

Let $\mathcal L$ be a $\pi$-system and a $\lambda$-system. Then, $\Omega \in \mathcal L$ and $A \in \mathcal L \implies A^c \in \mathcal L$. So, we need only to show that $\mathcal L$ is closed under countable unions. Let $A_n \in \mathcal L$, where $A_n$'s are not necessarily disjoint. Hence, we can form a partition of the $A_n$'s as follows: Let $B_1 = A_1$, $B_2 = A_2-A_1$, $B_3 = A_3 - (A_1 \cup A_2)$, ... , $B_n = A_n -(A_1 \cup A_2 \cup ... \cup A_{n-1})$. Now we have a disjoint partition of the $A_n$'s and since $\mathcal L$ is also a $\pi$-system, $\mathcal L$ is closed under intersection, so $\cup_n B_n = \cup_n A_n \in \mathcal L$ and therefore $\mathcal L$ is a $\sigma$-algebra. $_\square$

We now will state and prove a useful theorem in the construction of probability measures, called the $\pi$-$\lambda$ theorem.

Let $\mathcal P$ be a $\pi$-system and $\mathcal L$ a $\lambda$-system containing $\mathcal P$. Then $\sigma(\mathcal P) \subset \mathcal L.$

Let $\mathcal L$ be the smallest $\lambda$-system containing $\mathcal P$, then $\mathcal L$ is a $\lambda$-system as the intersection of all classes of the same type preserves the properties of that class. Let $\sigma(\mathcal P)$ be the smallest $\sigma$-algebra containing $\mathcal P$, then $\sigma(\mathcal P)$ is closed under all properties of a $\lambda$-system, so $\sigma(\mathcal P)$ is also a $\lambda$-system that contains $\mathcal P$. Thus, $\mathcal L \subset \sigma(\mathcal P)$, since $\sigma(\mathcal P)$ is one such collection of the intersection of all $\lambda$-systems that contain $\mathcal P$. Now we must show that $\sigma(\mathcal P) \subset \mathcal L$. We do so by defining the following collection:

Let $\mathcal L_A := \{B \subset \Omega : B \cap A \in \mathcal L \}$, that is, if $A \in \mathcal L$, then $\mathcal L_A$ is a $\lambda$-system. Let $A \in \mathcal L$, and since $\Omega \cap A = A \in \mathcal L$, we have $\Omega \in \mathcal L_A$. Let $B, C \in \mathcal L_A$, such that $B \subset C$. Given $A \in \mathcal L$, we have $(C-B) \cap A = (C \cap A) - (B \cap A)$. Since $(B \cap A) \subset (C \cap A)$, we have that $(C-B) \cap A \in \mathcal L$, and thus $C-B \in \mathcal L_A$, so 2-1 holds (which implies that 2 holds). Let $B_i \in \mathcal L_A \forall i \in \mathbb N$, such that the $B_i$'s are disjoint. Since $A \in \mathcal L$, then each $B_i \cap A$ is disjoint and since $\cup_i B_i \in \mathcal L$, we have that $\cup_i(A \cap B_i) \in \mathcal L$, and thus $\cup_i B_i \in \mathcal L_A$ and $\mathcal L_A$ is a $\lambda$-system.

Now, if we assume that $A \in \mathcal P$, $B \in \mathcal P$, since $\mathcal P$ is a $\pi$-system, then $A \cap B \in \mathcal P$. Since $\mathcal P \subset \mathcal L \implies A \cap B \in \mathcal L \implies B \in \mathcal L_A$, and thus $\mathcal P \subset \mathcal L_A$. Thus, $A \in \mathcal P$ and $B \in \mathcal L \implies B \in \mathcal L_A \implies B \in \mathcal L_B$. By using the results from the definition on $\mathcal L_A$, we see that $B \in \mathcal L \implies \mathcal P \subset \mathcal L_B$. Again, by the construction of $\mathcal L_A$, we see that $\mathcal L_B$ is a $\lambda$-system and $B \in \mathcal L \implies \mathcal L \subset \mathcal L_B$. Take $B \in \mathcal L$ and $C \in \mathcal L$ to arrive at either $C \in \mathcal L$ or $B \cap C \in \mathcal L$ and by symmetry of the construction, it must be the case that $A \cap B \in \mathcal L$ and $\mathcal L$ is both a $\pi$-system and a $\lambda$-system. Using the previous lemma, we have that $\mathcal L$ is a $\sigma$-algebra that contains $\mathcal P$. Thus, $\sigma(\mathcal P) \subset \mathcal L$ and we see that $\sigma(\mathcal P) = \mathcal L$. $_\square$

We now provide a construction that is used to generate probabilities that are defined on an algebra, $\mathcal A$.

We call $\mathbb P^*$ an

outer probability measureif $\forall A \in \Omega$, $\mathbb P^*(A) = \inf \big\{\sum_{n \in \mathbb N} \mathbb P(B_n): B_n \in \mathcal A, A \subset \bigcup_{n \in \mathbb N} B_n \big\}.$

**Cite as:**Axioms of Probability .

*Brilliant.org*. Retrieved from https://brilliant.org/wiki/axioms-of-probability/