Non-Bayesian decision theory ante-litteram: the case of G. L. S. Shackle
AbstractThis paper deals with the intellectual environment in which George L. S. Shackle’s theory of decision making was formulated and first discussed. Shackle’s approach had a great impact on decision theory in late 1940s and early 1950s being the single formalised attempt to discard the probability framework in the description of behaviour under uncertainty - a goal shared by Knight and Keynes. Against Shackle, Arrow defended the use of probability theory in decision making, by denying that the Knightian distinction between risk and uncertainty had any behavioural significance, and paving the way to Savage’s Foundations of Statistics as the new mainstream reference. Through an assessment of the reception of Shackle’s theory the paper presents the way a number of theoretical economists, psychologists, and mathematicians were interested in the viability of a formally structured alternative to theories of behaviour using probability statements to describe uncertainty. The paper aim to show that the lively but concentrated discussion on alternative decisional criteria Shackle was part of is crucial to understand the multifarious developments observed in modern decision theory in the last twenty years or so. Indeed, as discussed in a twin paper by Basili and Zappia, Shackle’s theory was a much more viable alternative to subjective expected utility than both its contemporary critics and modern decision theorists have recognised.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID), University of Siena in its series Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID) University of Siena with number 0408.
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Decision theory; uncertainty; Shackle.;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- B16 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Quantitative and Mathematical
- D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2008-07-30 (All new papers)
- NEP-HPE-2008-07-30 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
- NEP-UPT-2008-07-30 (Utility Models & Prospect Theory)
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