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An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic [Paperback]

Ian Hacking
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 2, 2001 0521775019 978-0521775014
This is an introductory textbook on probability and induction written by one of the world's foremost philosophers of science. The book has been designed to offer maximal accessibility to the widest range of students (not only those majoring in philosophy) and assumes no formal training in elementary symbolic logic. It offers a comprehensive course covering all basic definitions of induction and probability, and considers such topics as decision theory, Bayesianism, frequency ideas, and the philosophical problem of induction. The key features of the book are: * A lively and vigorous prose style* Lucid and systematic organization and presentation of the ideas* Many practical applications* A rich supply of exercises drawing on examples from such fields as psychology, ecology, economics, bioethics, engineering, and political science* Numerous brief historical accounts of how fundamental ideas of probability and induction developed.* A full bibliography of further reading Although designed primarily for courses in philosophy, the book could certainly be read and enjoyed by those in the social sciences (particularly psychology, economics, political science and sociology) or medical sciences such as epidemiology seeking a reader-friendly account of the basic ideas of probability and induction. Ian Hacking is University Professor, University of Toronto. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellow of the British Academy, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. he is author of many books including five previous books with Cambridge (The Logic of Statistical Inference, Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy?, The Emergence of Probability, Representing and Intervening, and The Taming of Chance).

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"While written as an introductory text, it is full of philosophical wisdom. Moreover, this is wisdom that most students of philosophy need but find very hard to acquire. Hacking explains all the basic ideas of probability theory, the philosophical puzzles they raise, the standard lines of response, their strengths and weaknesses. He writes with the authority of someone who has helped form the debates and understands everything properly, but at the same time he gives a fair hearing to all positions worth taking seriously. At some point in the career of most philosophy students, graduates and undergraduates alike, they read stuff, which uses probalistic ideas and turn to their teachers for guidance. I can imagine that the teachers' automatic response for some decades to come will be to send these students to Hacking." David Papineau, King's College, London

"Hacking's textbook is likely to become the standard for inductive logic courses. He writes simply, in a lively style, without oversimplification. it starts at the beginning, and throughout uses only the simplest calculations. As it goes on, tools including P-values, confidence intervals, expected values, the basics of decision theory, and Bayesianism are introduced with mathematical honesty and refreshing philosophical scrutiny. Lively and original examples drawn from everyday life create the appropriate context to prepare students to think critically about the barrage of statisical arguments that confront us on a daily basis. From Madison Avenue's "4 out of 5 dentists choose..." to highly sophisticated economic modeling we poll and make prophecies based on statistical information regularly. Hacking's textbook sheds much needed light on the mystique reasoning." Katherine van Uum, Grinnell College, Iowa

Book Description

This is an introductory textbook on probability and induction written by one of the world's foremost philosophers of science. The book has been designed to offer maximal accessibility to the widest range of students (not only those majoring in philosophy) and assumes no formal training in elementary symbolic logic. It offers a comprehensive course covering all basic definitions of induction and probability, and considers such topics as decision theory, Bayesianism, frequency ideas, and the philosophical problem of induction.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521775019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521775014
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What do you mean, "probably"? February 14, 2002
Format:Paperback
The best thing about this book is that it teachs basic probability theory while keeping the reader constantly aware of the on-going debate regarding what it means to talk in terms of probabilities, and of how that debate has shaped the development of probability theory. If you are a student taking a course in probability and statistics who would like to genuinely understand the conceptual basis of all those formulas they are teaching you, I suggest you read this book.
Some readers will be disappointed by this book. Since the book concentrates on the conceptual basis of probability and inductive logic, it does not give the reader enough technical tools to really do much applied mathematics. On the other hand, by the time Hacking gets around to discussing what students of philosophy will likely view as the big philosophical pay-off of probability theory (i.e. Bayesian and frequentist contributions to the problem of justifying induction) he devotes to them a mere 20 pages of not terribly deep discussion.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Especially good on Bayesianism and Frequentism June 14, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
(FOUR AND A HALF STARS)
This is more an intro to the PHILOSOPHY of probability and inductive logic than an intro to the MATHEMATICS of probability of inductive logic, although some of the basic mathematical ideas are covered (which is useful if you're gonna discuss the philosophy). Do not get this book if you're just looking for a typical mathematical intro to statistics. But DO get this book if you want to know about the foundations of Bayesianism or are interested in the Frequentists vs. Bayesian debate. It is the best intro out there on the Frequentists/Bayesians issue, and it is extremely helpful for someone who is trying to get a handle on Bayesian reasoning. Also, those who are more into the mathematical aspects of probability could find this book useful in giving them a wider perspective on the subject. On the whole, it's clearly written and fun to read, although it is not an "easy" book. A basic knowledge of probability theory and some initial grasp of induction are good to have before reading this. But overall, it's highly recommended for those who want to know about the conceptual underpinnings of probability/induction in general, and Bayesian and Frequentism specifically.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone, any thinker June 6, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone (including business men) who must make decisions with incomplete information and under uncertainty. Instead of focusing on the mechanics of statistics, it focuses on how to think about risky propositions.
I bought this book while working on a particular problem in machine learning, at a point where I had started realizing that I was losing clarity on my definition of probability. I was using the mechanics, but didn't clearly understand why the use was valid. This seemed an odd and embarrassing circumstance at the time, how could I not understand what "probability" means? As it turns out this confusion is one shared broadly in history of science, and in current applications of statistical mechanics.
Prof Hacking's writing is clear and entertaining, clearly aimed at engaging the reading audience.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rate Introductory Text January 30, 2009
Format:Paperback
This is a first rate introductory text prepared by a well known philosopher and expert on the logic and history of probability & statistics. The approach is disarmingly simple. Hacking avoids complicated math and proofs and teaches via the intuitive appeals to the underlying logic of these topics. Hacking begins with an intuitively based discussion of basic features of probability theory, expectation, Bayes rule, and decision analysis. This is followed by a particularly good exposition of the different senses of probability; belief-Bayesian and frequentist. Hacking shows how both approaches can be used fruitfully and rigorously in even mundane problems. These sections are followed by very nice chapters on the underlying logic of normal distributions, statistical hypothesis testing, and confidence intervals. This is the diametrical opposite of the cookbook approach used often in many statistics books and provides very nice understanding of key features of statistical methods. I never appreciated the strength of the confidence interval approach before reading this book. Hacking concludes with some concise but thoughtful chapters on the philosophical implications of these ideas, particularly as applied to the classic problem of induction. The quality of writing is excellent and the book features a large number of good examples and problems to work through. Strongly recommended to individuals who want to learn more about the basis of statistical methods.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love this book. It is easy to read and provides excellent examples. Not only does it introduce the reader to Bayes' Theorem, but it also covers various gambler's fallacies. A nice addition is the lucid philosophical commentary that keeps the reader informed about the various debates about inductive logic that have taken place over the ages. With this book, a beginner can get up-to-date with the theorem (Bayes') that has recently taken both the philosophy of science and probability worlds by storm.

It is great to see a solid logic book for philosophy that is not deductive. Inductive logic is important too!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good condition
Book was as I expected. I needed it for my study and I am glad that Amazon does good service with books
Published 9 months ago by Siska
5.0 out of 5 stars Brick by brick: the most plain-English logic and probability book I...
This closely reflects my own (college law) teaching style: use the smallest words and simplest examples possible, to start with, and then add on the technical terminology. Read more
Published 11 months ago by PHIL
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a gem
I am half way through the book and found it a pleasure to read due to the insights by the author's clear and concise writing style. I disagree with some other negative reviews. Read more
Published 17 months ago by C1
2.0 out of 5 stars Remedial reading
Like most scientists, I work with probabilities and statistics daily, but was looking for an nice introduction to the philosophy of probability to round out my interpretative... Read more
Published on July 1, 2012 by whiteelephant
5.0 out of 5 stars recommended!
The author gives admirable attention to clarity for the topics discussed in this book. As an introductory text, it's not reasonable to expect completeness for the more complex... Read more
Published on June 1, 2010 by Steve
5.0 out of 5 stars Connecting The Dots
This book clearly explains ideas in logic and in statistics/probability courses I have taken, and includes several insights new to me. Read more
Published on August 11, 2009 by Patras
5.0 out of 5 stars Best text on logic and philosophy of probability
Maybe 1/3 of a college course in probability and statistics consists of a rapid trip, in math language, through basic conceptual ideas such as the interpretation of "probability",... Read more
Published on June 20, 2009 by David J. Aldous
5.0 out of 5 stars Hacking gets everything right except for Keynes
Hacking's book is a job well done.He blends history,philosophy,logic,mathematics,statistics and science with wit and judicious scrutiny in general. Read more
Published on June 29, 2004 by Michael Emmett Brady
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