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Non-Bayesian decision theory ante-litteram: the case of G. L. S. Shackle

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  • Carlo Zappia

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Abstract

This 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Carlo Zappia, 2008. "Non-Bayesian decision theory ante-litteram: the case of G. L. S. Shackle," Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID) University of Siena 0408, Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID), University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:depfid:0408
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. G. L. S. Shackle, 1940. "A Reply to Professor Hart," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 54-57.
    2. Marcello Basili & Carlo Zappia, 2009. "Shackle And Modern Decision Theory," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 245-282, May.
    3. Paul Davidson, 1983. "Rational Expectations: A Fallacious Foundation for Studying Crucial Decision-Making Processes," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 5(2), pages 182-198, January.
    4. G. L. S. Shackle, 1942. "A Theory Of Investment-Decisions," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 0(1), pages 77-94.
    5. F. H. Hahn, 1955. "Uncertainty and the Cobweb," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 65-75.
    6. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. "Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
    7. Lawson, Tony, 1985. "Uncertainty and Economic Analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(380), pages 909-927, December.
    8. G. L. S. Shackle, 1949. "A Non-Additive Measure of Uncertainty," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 70-74.
    9. Kelsey, David, 1993. "Choice under Partial Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(2), pages 297-308, May.
    10. Marcello Basili & Carlo Zappia, 2007. "The weight of argument and non-additive measures: a note," Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID) University of Siena 003, Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID), University of Siena.
    11. Lachmann, Ludwig M, 1976. "From Mises to Shackle: An Essay on Austrian Economics and the Kaleidic Society," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 54-62, March.
    12. Itzhak Gilboa & David Schmeidler, 1992. "Additive Representation of Non-Additive Measures and the Choquet Integral," Discussion Papers 985, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    13. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-153, April.
    14. Coddington, Alan, 1982. "Deficient Foresight: A Troublesome Theme in Keynesian Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 480-487, June.
    15. Kelsey, David & Quiggin, John, 1992. " Theories of Choice under Ignorance and Uncertainty," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, pages 133-153.
    16. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    17. Vaughn,Karen I., 1994. "Austrian Economics in America," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521445528, December.
    18. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-587, May.
    19. Ramsey, Frank P., 1926. "Truth and Probability," Histoy of Economic Thought Chapters,in: Braithwaite, R. B. (ed.), The Foundations of Mathematics and other Logical Essays, chapter 7, pages 156-198 McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Decision theory; uncertainty; Shackle.;

    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

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