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The Science of Conjecture

Paperback
, 520 pages
ISBN:
9781421418803
May 2015
$40.00

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The Science of Conjecture

Evidence and Probability before Pascal

How did we make reliable predictions before Pascal and Fermat's discovery of the mathematics of probability in 1654? What methods in law, science, commerce, philosophy, and logic helped us to get at the truth in cases where certainty was not attainable? In The Science of Conjecture, James Franklin examines how judges, witch inquisitors, and juries evaluated evidence; how scientists weighed reasons for and against scientific theories; and how merchants counted shipwrecks to determine insurance rates.

The Science of Conjecture provides a history of rational methods of dealing with uncertainty and explores the coming to consciousness of the human understanding of risk.

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."

" 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."

"Franklin's style is clear and fluent, with an occasional sly Gibbonian aside to make the reader chuckle."

"An admirably accessible study written in a crisp prose. It presents the reader with anarching historical perspective throughout many a century of human action."

"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."

"Franklin's book is magnificent... Think of [it] as a non-fiction equivalent of Tolstoy's War and Peace."

" 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."

"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."

"[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."

"This is the intellectual book of the year, and it ought to become one of the great classics of intellectual history."

"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.'"

"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."

" 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."

"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."

"Since many in the nominalist/empiricist/positivist tradition deny that we can know natures, this book has a place in teacher education as well as legal education for the challenges it poses the reader on how we know, and how well we know, through induction, perception and abstraction."

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