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DEPFID Working Paper 3/2007 - Abstract

The weight of argument and non-additive measures: a note

Marcello Basili and Carlo Zappia

This note argues that a representation of the epistemic state of the individual through a non-additive measure provides a novel account of Keynes’s view of probability theory proposed in his Treatise on Probability. The paper shows, first, that Keynes’s “non-numerical probabilities” can be interpreted in terms of decisional weights and distorsions of the probability priors. Second, that the degree of non-additivity of the probability measure can account for the confidence in the assessment without any reference to a second order probability. And, third, that the criterion for decision making under uncertainty derived in the non-additive literature incorporates a measure of the degree of confidence in the probability assessment. The paper emphasises the Keynesian derivation of Ellsberg’s analysis: the parallel between Keynes and Ellsberg is deemed to be significant since Ellsberg’s insights represent the main starting point of the modern developments of decision theory under uncertainty and ambiguity.

Keywords: uncertainty, probabilities, Keynes

JEL Classification: B16, D81

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