Edited by Robert W. Dimand and Harald Hagemann
Chapter 19: Treatise on Probability
Keynes was a philosopher before also becoming an economist. His 1908 Fellowship dissertation (equivalent to a PhD), after many interruptions, was published as his philosophical magnum opus, A Treatise on Probability in 1921. This advanced the logical theory of probability to replace its main contemporary rivals, the classical theory and frequency theory. In Keynes’s treatment, probability is the general theory of logic covering all situations, regardless of whether the available information is sufficient or insufficient to deliver certainty. Probability thus arises in the context of arguments from premises to conclusions, and expresses the degree of rational belief one is entitled to have in the conclusion, given the premises. The extent to which the philosophy of the Treatise on Probability influenced Keynes’s economics and politics, especially regarding uncertainty, rationality, formal analysis (mathematical and econometric), methodology and rational action, has been much discussed and debated, with divergent standpoints being taken.
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