- Use promo code PRIMEBOOKS18 to save $5.00 when you spend $20.00 or more on Books offered by Amazon.com. Enter code PRIMEBOOKS18 at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Taming of Chance (Ideas in Context) 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Special offers and product promotions
"Hacking has an uncanny instinct for honing in upon some critical and novel feature of the past and showing how seemingly disparate facts fall into place once we grant him his central category. He does not pretend to make a complete survey of his topic. Again like an archaelogist, he respects the fragmentary record as one of the limitations of the trade. But what he digs up and deciphers never fails to engage and illuminate." Science
"My summary hardly does justice to the richness of Hacking's ideas or his many asides, like the striking comparison of Peirce and Friedrich Nietzsche....Hacking's meticulous scholarship, his comprehension of various areas of learning, and his commitment to linear exposition seem to me to exceed Foucault's." Bruce Kuklick, American Historical Review
"The Taming of Chance contains a wealth of information and is very pleasant reading. The various pursuits that impinge on the taming of chance and the development of statistical law are overwhelming. I recommend this book strongly to anyone interested in the development of statistical thought." Peter Guttorp, Journal of the American Statistical Association
In the course of a continuing inquiry into the origins and development of contemporary thought, this study reveals how statistical patterns were finally perceived in a non-deterministic manner by the end of the late nineteenth century.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Like many groundbreaking works, the book has the tendency to go off on tangents then meander back to the main narrative. Hacking was the first to tell the story of how chance, little understood or studied prior to the seventeenth century, came to be the dominant motif of science to where now many scientists hold we live in a genuinely stochastic universe.
If Hacking had been traveling down a well beaten path he probably would have organized the narrative more so that it does not leap from Prussian health statistics to the philosophic theories of Charles Pierce. But if you choose to open up a new line of thought, such as the evolution of ideas about stochasticity in modern times, you can be forgiven for not having a completely developed system.
Indeed, if you read Hacking's Introduction to Inductive Logic textbook you will see that he can write clear and simple sentences that are well organized.
I don't want to scare anybody off from The Taming of Chance. The style is lively, the subject fascinating and the author obviously has a masterful grasp of the material. But, it's a book to be read and then re-read several months later and then possibly re-read again to get all that the author wants to convey. Another option is to read the book as part of a course where someone who is similarly masterful on the history of modern concepts of chance can guide the reader.
One of the rare books that forever changes the scholarly world. Just not beach reading.
Hacking takes us through the 19th century intellectual battle between adherents of determinism and probability's champions. The book devolves at times into more of a history of thought than a discussion of the implications of these changes in thinking. In fact, the author admits late in the book, "My chapters have become successively more removed from daily affairs."
He describes chance first as a concept that had no place in reasonable discourse during the Enlightenment. With the development of measures of probability around 1830, chance is condemned by "statistical fatalism" to irrelevance. Finally, with the development of quantum mechanics in 1930, chance becomes the critical element of life with which we are all too familiar.
Along the way, we learn that some proponents of probability helped create the idea that free will existed only in theory (from 1830 until 1930). Thus, criminals are behaving predictably and the degree of their personal responsibility is at issue. Hacking concludes, "we have not made our peace with statistical laws about people. They jostle far too roughly with our ideas about personal responsibility."
While I would not consider this book as light summer reading, it will reveal to the determined reader changes in historical thought with which he is not likely to be previously familiar.
You wouldn't know it from the strange headings, but each chapter deals with some particular field of inquiry where statistical methods and statistical thinking became prominent in the 19th century. That may sound interesting, but unfortunately the author just dumped a truckload of short biographies into every chapter. Person A studied this and that, worked here and there and was in regular contact with persons B and C. They in turn studied this and that and thought so and so about chance and statistics. It goes on like this for the entire book, detail after detail after detail. But these collected details aren't very interesting without a broader perspective. A good account of the history of ideas should include some generalizations too.
The author actually states on page 1 that his intention is to argue that two 19th century transformations are connected. The first transformation is the idea of a world which is regular without being causally determined. The second transformation is the emergence of a society governed by statistical information. So apparently his intention was to make a general argument, but he really fails miserably in putting it together. I just finished the book and I don't recall a single passage where he would have clearly argued the connection he claims on page 1. Whereas good books in the history of ideas contain a general analysis supported by selected examples, this one seems to contain only examples. There's no general argument so readers are forced to draw their own conclusions.
Maybe this book will have some appeal to people with biographical interests. But I like books that concentrate on broader developments which took place above and beyond any particular researcher. I was disappointed to find that this book did not offer anything on that front. So if you're looking to understand the growth of statistics as a general phenomenon, you'll have too look somewhere else.