David Hume as pre-Bayesian

``Probability is of two kinds: either when the object is itself uncertain, and to be determined by chance: or, when though the object is already certain, yet it is uncertain to our judgment, which finds a number of proofs or presumptions on each side of the question.” A Treatise of Human Nature, by David Hume, 1739.

Jean-Louis Foulley pointed out to me this great citation from the Scottish philosopher David Hume,  more than twenty years prior to Thomas Bayes… Actually, there is an interesting historical question as to whether (and then how) Hume and Bayes could have interacted. (When Bayes studied in Edinburgh in the 1720’s, Hume was less than 12…)

5 Responses to “David Hume as pre-Bayesian”

  1. Christian, sorry! I guess I did not make myself clear. I meant to say that people like Zabell who have worked on the history of subjective probability, had already pointed out that Hume expressed some “Bayesian feelings” in a “treatise of human nature” . It is then a mystery, as you correctly say, whether the two had the chance to meet.

  2. Stuart Clemence Says:

    G’Day! Xianblog,
    I just stumbled across this and, Can anyone who has studied philosophy indepthly list the characteristics that David Hume thought a credible art critic would need? This comes from his “Of the Standard of Taste”. Trying to find them all and refute them if necessary.

    • A fairly interesting spam in that the text superficially makes sense wrt the post but the [removed] link was to an “irritable bowel syndrome” website…

  3. @dave: thank you for the link! I just checked in Symmetry and its discontents but could not find an entry about a mentor connection between Hume and Bayes. The book states that Bayes was aware of Hume’s Treatise.

  4. Christian,
    I recall that Sandy Zabell has written about the connection between Hume and Bayes.. I believe there is a collection of essays entitled “symmetry and its discontents” … there is a thin line connecting Hume, De Moivre, Laplace, Bayes, DeFinetti, Carnap and Kingman amongst others..

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