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Showing posts from August 9, 2015

Coincidence 4: information

E.T. Jaynes was a mathematician and philosopher who, in the twentieth century, did perhaps the most to counter and wrongfoot the frequentist tradition in possibility theory. Jaynes tried to prove that the possibility calculus is rooted in logic – that it is, indeed, as Laplace said, “the calculus of inductive reasoning” – of which random experiments are merely a subset. In other words, Jayne tried to harden the hearts of all who were interested in probability against the idea that probability represented some objective property of objects – or a Popper put it, a propension. To Jayne’s mind, at the same time that the frequentist line attempted to demonstrate that probabilty was something objective, instead of subjective, it also abstracted, absurdly, from the laws of physics. His central case for this was the discourse around coin tossing. Coins, as Jayne points out, are physical objects, and their rise and fall is completely described by the physics of ballistics. (I take this example

coincidence 3: the naive and the sophisticated novelist

In 1850, Dickens began a novel with an exemplary sentence: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station shall be held by someone else, these pages will tell.”  It was, in fact, obviously the nature of these pages – the novel – to tell this story. It went without saying that for Dickens, as well as for other Victorian novelists, the interest of the novel was tied to interest in the individual. If there was an anxiety here, it was about heroism in Carlyle’s key, a heroism that passes the moral tests of life – but there was no doubt that a life was definitely not a matter determined within a larger social pattern, and only of interest insofar as it could be grouped with a subpopulation in order to display certain tendencies. In this sense, the novel bet everything on the ideology of heroism. Even so, at the same time, in mid nineteenth century, there were indications that a radically different point of view, the statistical mindset, was winning min