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Theory of Probability by Bruno de Finetti

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Foreword

It is an honour to be asked to write a foreword to this book, for I believe that it is a book destined ultimately to be recognized as one of the great books of the world.

The subject of probability is over two hundred years old and for the whole period of its existence there has been dispute about its meaning. At one time these arguments mattered little outside academia, but as the use of probability ideas has spread to so many human activities, and as probabilists have produced more and more sophisticated results, so the arguments have increased in practical importance. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in statistics, where the basic practices of the subject are being revised as a result of disputes about the meaning of probability. When a question has proved to be difficult to answer, one possibility may be that the question itself was wrongly posed and, consequently, unanswerable. This is de Finetti’s way out of the impasse. Probability does not exist.

Does not exist, that is, outside of a person: does not exist, objectively. Probability is a description of your (the reader of these words) uncertainty about the world. So this book is about uncertainty, about a feature of life that is so essential to life that we cannot imagine life without it. This book is about life: about a way of thinking that embraces all human activities.

So, in a sense, this book is for everyone; but necessarily it will be of immediate appeal to restricted classes of readers.

Philosophers ...

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