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date: 18 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The history of the evaluation of uncertain evidence before the quantification of probability in 1654 is a mass of examples relevant to current debates. They deal with matters that in general are as unquantified now as ever – the degree to which evidence supports theory, the strength and justification of inductive inferences, the weight of testimony, the combination of pieces of uncertain evidence, the price of risk, the philosophical nature of chance, and the problem of acting in case of doubt. Concepts similar to modern “proof beyond reasonable doubt” were developed especially in the legal theory of evidence. Moral theology discussed “probabilism”, the doctrine that one could follow a probable opinion in ethics even if the opposite was more probable. Philosophers understood the difficult problem of induction. Legal discussion of “aleatory contracts” such as insurance and games of chance developed the framework in which the quantification of probability eventually took place.

Keywords: logical probability, law of evidence, probabilism, life annuity, bet, problem of induction, half-proof

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