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The Science of Conjecture


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Contents: Preface Chapter 1: The Ancient Law of Proof Egypt and Mesopotamia; The Talmud; Roman Law; Proof and Presumptions; Indian LawChapter 2: The Medieval Law of Evidence: Suspicion, Half-proof, and the Inquisition Dark Age Ordeals; The Gregorian Revolution; The Glossators Invent Half-Proof; Presumptions in Canon Law; Grades of Evidence and Torture; The Postglossators Bartolus and Baldus; The Competed Theory; The Inquisition; Law in the EastChapter 3: Renaissance Law Henry VIII Presumed Wed; Tudor Treason Trials; Continental Laws: The Treatises on Presumptions; The Witch Inquisitors; English Legal Theory and the Reasonable ManChapter 4: The Doubting Conscience and Moral Certainty Penance and Doubts; The Doctrine of Probabilism; Suarez: Negative and Positive Doubt; Grotius, Silhon, and the Morality of the State; Hobbes and the Risk of Attack; The Scandal of Laxism; English Casuists Pursue the Middle Way; Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz, Prince of Laxists; Pascal's Provincial LettersChapter 5: Rhetoric, Logic, Theory The Greek Vocabulary of Probability; The Sophists and the Art of Persuasion; Aristotle's Rhetoric and Logic; The Rhetoric to Alexander; Roman Rhetoric: Cicero and Quintilian; Islamic Logic; The Scholastic Dialectical Syllogism; Probability in Ordinary Language; Humanist Rhetoric; Late Scholastic LogicChapter 6: Hard Science Observation and Theory; Aristotle's Not-by-Chance Argument; Averaging of Observations in Greek Astronomy; The Simplicity of Theories; Nicole Oresme on Relative Frequency; Copernicus; Kepler Harmonizes Observations; Galileo on the Probability of Copernican HypothesisChapter 7: Soft Science and History The Physiognomics; Divination and Astrology; The Empiric School of Medicine on Drug Testing; The Talmud and Maimonides on Majorities; Vernacular Averaging and Quality Control; Experimentation in Biology; The Authority of Histories; The Authenticity of Documents; Valla and the Donation of Constantine; Cano and the Signs of True HistoriesChapter 8: Philosophy: Action and Induction Carneades's Mitigated Skepticism; The Epicureans on Inference from Signs; Inductive Skepticism and Avicenna's Reply; Aquinas on Tendencies; Scotus and Ockham on Induction; Nicholas of Autrecourt; The Decline of the West; Bacon and Descartes: Certainty? or Moral Certainty?; The Jesuits and Hobbes on Induction; Pascal's Deductivist Philosophy of ScienceChapter 9: Religion: Laws of God, Laws of Nature The Argument from Design; The Church Fathers; Inductive Skepticism by Revelation; John of Salisbury; Maimonides on Creation; Are Laws of Nature Necessary?; The Reasonableness of Christianity; Pascal's WagerChapter 10: Aleatory Contracts: Insurance, Annuities, and Bets The Price of Peril; Doubtful Claims in Jewish Law; Olivi on Usury and Future Profits; Pricing Life Annuities; Speculation in Public Debt; Insurance Rates; Renaissance Bets and Speculation; Lots and Lotteries; Commerce and the CasuistsChapter 11: Dice Games of Chance in Antiquity; The Medieval Manuscript on the Interrupted Game; Cardano; Gamblers and Casuists; Galileo's Fragment; De Mere and Roberval; The Fermat-Pascal Correspondence; Huygens' Reckoning in Games of Chance; CaramuelChapter 12: Conclusion Subsymbolic Probability and the Transition to Symbols; Kinds of Probability and the Stages of Discovering Them; Why Not Earlier?; Two Parallel Histories; The Genius of the Scholastics and the Orbit of Aristotle; The Place of Law in the history of IdeasEpilogue: The Survival of Unquantified Probability The Port-Royal Logic; Leibniz's Logic of Probability; To the PresentAppendix: Review of Work before 1660

Promotional Information

The Science of Conjecture is an extraordinary work, a clearly written history of the ideas of evidence and of uncertainty before Pascal. Franklin has mastered a vast literature over thousands of years, bringing it together in scholarly fashion, fully annotated. -- Stephen Stigler, University of Chicago, author of The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900

About the Author

James Franklin is a professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of New South Wales.


A remarkable book. Mr. Franklin writes clearly and exhibits a wry wit. But he also ranges knowledgeably across many disciplines and over many centuries. Wall Street Journal The Science of Conjecture opens an old chest of human attempts to draw order from havoc and wipes clean the rust from some cast-off classical tools that can now be reused to help build a framework for the unpredictable future. Science Franklin's style is clear and fluent, with an occasional sly Gibbonian aside to make the reader chuckle. New Criterion An admirably accessible study written in a crisp prose. It presents the reader with anarching historical perspective throughout many a century of human action. -- Giora Hon Centaurus Franklin gives a magisterial account of matters as diverse as the Talmud, Justinian's Digest, torture, witch hunts, Tudor treason trials, ancient and medieval astronomy and physics, humanist historiography, scholastic philosophy, speculations in public debt, and 17th century mathematics. His treatment of medieval law is among the best I have ever read. International Journal of Evidence and Proof Franklin's book is magnificent... Think of [it] as a non-fiction equivalent of Tolstoy's War and Peace. -- Peter Tillers The Jurist The Science of Conjecture is a masterly work, beautifully written, and based on encyclopaedic research... It is simply a tour de force that is unlikely to be surpassed for many a year. -- Barry Miller The Thomist Statistics teachers who like to sprinkle a little history and philosophy into their classes will find much here to delight and challenge them... This is a serious and scholarly work that I expect often will inform my teaching. -- Richard J. Cleary Journal of the American Statistical Association [This book has given me] sheer enjoyment in its density of strange information, in the wit and clarity if its writing, and in the vigour of its argumentation. I recommend it unreservedly to all interested in its subject. -- Oliver Mayo Australian and New Zealand Journal of Statistics This is the intellectual book of the year, and it ought to become one of the great classics of intellectual history. -- Scott Campbell Interdisciplinary Science Reviews The strength of The Science of Conjecture lies in its panoramic exposition of developments across the centuries and across intellectual disciplines and human endeavors. It is, as one reviewer wrote, 'a magesterial account of matters as diverse as the Talmud, Justinian's Digest, torture, witch hunts, Tudor treason trials, ancient and medieval astronomy and physics, humanist histriography, scholastic philosophy, speculations in public debt, and 17th century mathematics.' -- D. H. Kaye Law and History Review A remarkable book. Mr. Franklin writes clearly and exhibits a wry wit. But he also ranges knowledgeably across many disciplines and over many centuries. There are several reasons to read this book, but perhaps the best reason is its contemporary relevance. The lessons he discusses have pertinence to an age like ours, which has witnessed a gradual waning of faith in the objectivity of the relation of uncertain evidence to conclusion. Wall Street Journal In The Science of Conjecture, James Franklin shows us how deeply and subtly jurists and philosophers from ancient Greece onwards have explored how we can deal rationally with real-life cases (law cases, for instance, or scientific experiments) where the link between cause and effect is not obvious. -- J.M. Coetzee The Australian

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