The Taming of Chance

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1990-08-31
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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In this important new study Ian Hacking continues the enquiry into the origins and development of certain characteristic modes of contemporary thought undertaken in such previous works as the best-selling The Emergence of Probability. Professor Hacking shows how by the late nineteenth century it became possible to think of statistical patterns as explanatory in themselves, and to regard the world as not necessarily deterministic in character. In the same period the idea of human nature was displaced by a model of normal people with laws of dispersion. These two parallel transformations fed into each other, so that chance made the world seem less capricious: it was legitimated because it brought order out of chaos. Professor Hacking argues that these developments have led to a new style of scientific reasoning gaining its hold upon us. The greater the level of indeterminism in our conception of the world and of people, the more we expect control and intervention in our lives, and the less we expect freedom. Combining detailed scientific historical research with characteristic philosophic breadth and verve, The Taming of Chance brings out the relations between philosophy, the physical sciences, mathematics and the development of social institutions, and provides a unique and authoritative analysis of the 'probabilisation' of the western world.

Table of Contents

1. The argument
2. The doctrine of necessity
3. Public amateurs, secret bureaucrats
4. Bureaux
5. The sweet despotism of reason
6. The quantum of sickness
7. The granary of science
8. Suicide is a kind of madness
9. The experimental basis of the philosophy of legislation
10. Facts without authenticity, without detail, without control, and without value
11. By what majority?
12. The law of large numbers
13. Regimental chests
14. Society prepares the crimes
15. The astronomical conception of society
16. The mineralogical conception of society
17. The most ancient nobility
18. Cassirer's thesis
19. The normal state
20. As real as cosmic forces
21. The autonomy of statistical law
22. A chapter from Prussian statistics
23. A universe of chance

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