Quick visit to A Treatise on Probability
Following my advanced graduate course at CREST about Jeffreys’ Theory of Probability, and a remark in Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness, I was planning to cover John Maynard Keynes’ A Treatise On Probability this year. After reading the book over the past weeks, and pondering it over the nights at the Frontiers of Statistical Decision Making and Bayesian Analysis conference, I decided it could not provide enough material for a whole two week course. Since I was starting today just getting off the plane from Detroit, I decided to fall back on my earlier course on Jeffreys’ Theory of Probability and to include comments on Keynes’ A Treatise On Probability wherever they fitted… Indeed, I found that most of the book focussed on philosophical foundations of probability that were of no interest for me nor for my students, while the statistics part was not innovative enough. I will eventually write a review of the book listing those drawbacks but the main aspect of Keynes’ statistical perspective is to be highly suspicious of models and thus to favour empirical techniques that are close to modern bootstrap. In particular, Keynes criticises inverse probability techniques and Laplace’s perspective all over the book… This is thus an interesting historical foray but this memoir of Keynes prepared for a Fellowship application does not stand within the influential books of the 20th century for a good reason.