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An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic Paperback – July 2, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0521775014 ISBN-10: 0521775019
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Editorial Reviews


"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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521775019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521775014
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Steve L on June 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Berel Dov Lerner on 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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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Steven Bucuvalas on 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 By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David J. Aldous on June 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
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", Bayes rule, significance tests and confidence intervals. This book, aimed at students of philosophy, treats this material and the associated math much more slowly and carefully -- relating probability to logic and philosophy, not just to math. For instance it has clear discussions of the principle of maximizing expected utility; the frequentist/Bayes philosophies and the coherence ideas emphasized by Bayesian apologists; the logic of significance tests and confidence intervals. Concepts are illustrated by creative selection of hypothetical story examples -- much more interesting than the usual math textbooks full of X's and Y's. The final 20 pages are a rather big jump toward technical philosophy -- arguing that both Bayesian and frequentist philosophies comprise "evasions" rather than "solutions" of "the problem of induction".

For a textbook, rather than bedtime reading, on this material it is hard to imagine a better treatment. My only criticism -- perhaps a criticism of analytic philosophy in general -- is that it seems more concerned with teaching the reader how to critique other people's arguments that with teaching them how to say anything constructive about the real world.
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