On Fisher's Review of J M Keynes's A Treatise on Probability - A Fiasco
26 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2016 Last revised: 17 Feb 2016
Date Written: February 13, 2016
J M Keynes’s A Treatise on Probability is built on the mathematical and logical foundations of G E Boole’s 1854 The Laws of Thought. Boole introduced the first technical attempt (Adam Smith was the first to specify and solve two such indeterminate problems in The Wealth of Nations) at systematically solving indeterminate, probability problems (where, under uncertainty, relevant knowledge or evidence is missing) using interval valued probability. His systematic techniques were presented in chapters 16-21 of The Laws of Thought. Fisher’s review of the A Treatise on Probability demonstrates an astounding degree of ignorance on his part. Fisher has no idea of what an indeterminate probability is. For Fisher, ALL probabilities MUST be point estimates.
We will show that Fisher, a biologist wedded to the Limiting (Relative) Frequency interpretation of probability, had no idea about what Keynes was doing or talking about in Parts I-IV of the A Treatise on Probability. We will conclude that Fisher was foolish to attempt a review of the A Treatise on Probability knowing that he had not read Boole. This conclusion is then shown to apply to practically all modern, twentieth and twenty-first century writers on the A Treatise on Probability.
Keywords: George Boole, indeterminate probability, Cheybshev's Inequality, nonadditive
JEL Classification: B10, B12, B20, B22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation