The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal

Baltimore, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press (2001)
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How were reliable predictions made before Pascal and Fermat's discovery of the mathematics of probability in 1654? What methods in law, science, commerce, philosophy, and logic helped us to get at the truth in cases where certainty was not attainable? The book examines how judges, witch inquisitors, and juries evaluated evidence; how scientists weighed reasons for and against scientific theories; and how merchants counted shipwrecks to determine insurance rates. Also included are the problem of induction before Hume, design arguments for the existence of God, and theories on how to evaluate scientific and historical hypotheses. It is explained how Pascal and Fermat's work on chance arose out of legal thought on aleatory contracts. The book interprets pre-Pascalian unquantified probability in a generally objective Bayesian or logical probabilist sense.

Author's Profile

James Franklin
University of New South Wales


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