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Keynes on Probability, Uncertainty and Tragic Choices

Anna Carabelli ()

Cahiers d'Économie Politique, 1998, vol. 30, issue 1, 187-226

Abstract: [eng] Right from 1904-6 Keynes was interested in the problems of moral dilemmas which are typical of Greek tragedy. His constant attention to the incommensurability and incomparability of magnitudes (probability and economic magnitudes such as real income, real capital and general price level) derives from this early interest in dilemmas and his concept of uncertainty is connected with rational dilemmas and tragic choices. So, in Keynes, incommensurability and uncertainty are connected with Greek tragedy. . Keynes deals with the incommensurability of reasons which are at the ground of probable judgement in his A Treatise on Probability : rational dilemmas arise when there is conflict between incommensurable, opposite and heterogeneous reasons which cannot be weighed down one against the others on a common balance. The dilemmas of the umbrella in A Treatise on Probability, of Buridan's ass in Keynes' s letter to Townshend in 1939, of the two Queens Victoria and Elizabeth in The General Theory are some of the examples to which Keynes refers in his writings. These dilemmas characterise situations of indecision, of irreducible conflict, that is of uncertainty. [fre] Dès le début (1904-6) Keynes s'est intéressé aux problèmes du dilemme moral typiques de la tragédie grecque. Son attention constante à l'incommensurabilité des grandeurs et à l'impossibilité de les comparer (probabilité et grandeurs économiques comme le revenu réel, le capital réel et le niveau général des prix) vient de son intérêt juvénil aux dilemmes et sa conception d'incertitude est liée aux dilemmes rationaux et aux choix tragiques. Donc, en bref, incommensurabilité et incertitude chez Keynes sont connexes à la tragédie grecque. . Keynes étudie l'incommensurabilité des raisons qui sont à la base du jugement probable dans A Treatise on Probability : des dilemmes rationaux naissent quand il y a un conflit entre raisons incommensurables, opposées et hétérogènes, qui ne peuvent pas être pesées sur une balance commune. Les dilemmes du parapluie dans A Treatise on Probability, de l'âne de Buridan dans la lettre de Keynes à Townshend en 1939, des deux reines Victoria et Elisabeth dans The General Theory sont des exemples dont Keynes parle dans ses écrits. Ces dilemmes caractérisent des situations d'indécision, de conflit irréductible, donc d'incertitude.

Date: 1998
Note: DOI:10.3406/cep.1998.1219
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