IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Keynes on Probability and Decision: Evidence from the Correspondence with Hugh Townshend

Listed author(s):
  • Carlo Zappia


    (University of Siena, Italy - Department of Economics and Statistics)

In the literature on his philosophical ideas the correspondence Keynes had with Hugh Townshend over the just-published "General Theory" has attracted significant attention. Excerpts from the exchange have been used as a relevant piece of evidence by scholars who claim that Keynes came to reject rational decision criteria, thus focusing on the necessity for economic agents to form expectations on market sentiment, rather than fundamentals. This note concentrates instead on the whole correspondence and tries to show that a comprehensive reading of the exchange between Keynes and Townshend, unfolding through the years 1936-1938, suggests that its discussion thread was more technical than usually understood. It is argued that the correspondence provides evidence for the fact that Keynes still had a keen interest in a problem left unsolved in the "Treatise on Probability", namely, the definition of an alternative to what he termed «normal ethical theory» in the "Treatise" and identified with «strict mathematical calculation» in the "General Theory". The correspondence reveals that the issue of whether a useful decision rule can be devised under uncertainty still appears central in Keynes’s thought in 1938.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma in its journal History of Economic Ideas.

Volume (Year): 23 (2015)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 145-166

in new window

Handle: RePEc:hid:journl:v:23:y:2015:2:6:p:145-166
Contact details of provider: Web page:

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hid:journl:v:23:y:2015:2:6:p:145-166. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mario Aldo Cedrini)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.