Probability and arguments: Keynes’s legacy

Cambridge Journal of Economics 45 (5):933–950 (2021)
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John Maynard Keynes’s A Treatise on Probability is the seminal text for the logical interpretation of probability. According to his analysis, probabilities are evidential relations between a hypothesis and some evidence, just like the relations of deductive logic. While some philosophers had suggested similar ideas prior to Keynes, it was not until his Treatise that the logical interpretation of probability was advocated in a clear, systematic and rigorous way. I trace Keynes’s influence in the philosophy of probability through a heterogeneous sample of thinkers who adopted his interpretation. This sample consists of Frederick C. Benenson, Roy Harrod, Donald C. Williams, Henry E. Kyburg and David Stove. The ideas of Keynes prove to be adaptable to their diverse theories of probability. My discussion indicates both the robustness of Keynes’s probability theory and the importance of its influence on the philosophers whom I describe. I also discuss the Problem of the Priors. I argue that none of those I discuss have obviously improved on Keynes’s theory with respect to this issue.

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William Peden
Lingnan University


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