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.

7 Responses to “Quick visit to A Treatise on Probability”

  1. […] fallacy some of the opponents interviewed in the paper do not grasp. (Which reminded me of Keynes seemingly going the same way.) The short paragraph written on causality and Hill’s criteria […]

  2. […] clearly is a staunch supported of Jeffreys, if not of de Finetti. (Curiously, he also seems to hold Keynes in high respect, despite the later’s dismissal of Laplace.) Given that the book spans 40 […]

  3. […] Keynes [assessed] A few days ago, I got the following review of my paper on Keynes’ A Treatise on Probability, review which, while being rather negative, is quite […]

  4. […] Keynes [assessment] A few days ago, I got the following review of my paper on Keynes, review which, while being rather negative, is quite fair. When I looked at the title, I […]

  5. […] When completing my comments on Keynes’ A Treatise On Probability, thanks to an Og’s reader, I found that Keynes is held in high esteem (as a probabilist) by the members of the Society for […]

  6. I will be looking foward to read this review. It seems to be in contrast with the first Amazon review:
    best regards
    Manoel Galdino

    • Thanks for pointing out this review, I am indeed quite skeptical of the definition of non-numerical probabilities as interval estimates. The main part of the book is about the philosophical foundations of probability, on which I have no expertise. The statistical part is quite limited, mostly following Lexis.

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