fwd: Keynes queer birthing...

Rosser Jr, John Barkley rosserjb at jmu.edu
Thu Feb 11 10:44:10 PST 1999

--- Begin Forwarded Message --- Date: Wed, 10 Feb 1999 19:19:21 -0500 From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> Subject: Keynes queer birthing... Sender: owner-pkt at csf.colorado.edu To: POST-KEYNESIAN THOUGHT <pkt at csf.colorado.edu>

Reply-To: pkt at csf.colorado.edu Message-ID: <v04011735b2e7d16e5cd4@[]>

Anyone seen this before <http://www.middlebury.edu/~cornwall/Keynes.Bayesian2.html>?

Keynes' Queer Birthing of Bayesian Analysis

As outlined by Dennis Lindley [1968], a genealogy of Bayesian analysis can be traced from Leonard Savage [1972, originally 1954] back to the notion of subjective probability developed by Frank Ramsey [1960, written 1926] who developed the intimate connection between subjective probability and preferences [see Anscombe and Aumann, 1963]. Ramsey was responding to and sharpening the initial formulation by Maynard Keynes [1943, originally 1921]. A useful overview of literature on Keynes' work on subjective probability and of its broader implications in economics is given by Moggridge [1992, ch. 6], Blaug [1994, esp. p. 1208] and Bateman [1987].

We see a close connection between Keynes' birthing of macroeconomics and of Bayesian analysis, following Jack Amariglio [1990, pp. 30-31], in noting Keynes' comment [1937, pp. 213-214] :

By "uncertain" knowledge ... I do not mean merely to distinguish what is known for certain from what is only probable. ... The sense in which I am using the term is that in which the prospect of a European war is uncertain, or the price of copper and the rate of interest ... About these matters there is no scientific basis on which to form any calculable probability whatever. We simply do not know. Nevertheless, the necessity for action and for decision compels us as practical men to do our best to overlook this awkward fact and to behave exactly as we should if we had behind us a good Benthamite calculation of a series of prospective advantages and disadvantages, each multiplied by its appropriate probability, waiting to be summed.

This "awkward fact" that "there is no scientific basis on which to form any calculable probability" combined with "the necessity for action and for decision" can, I have argued [Cornwall, 1997], be resolved socially through the use of subjective probabilities which embody cognitive codes or languages and which are social - rather than individual - entities/constructions. This type of social evolution of codes for thinking and perceiving, cognitive codes, can also be related to Michel Foucault's épistémè [1972], Barbara Ponse's principle of consistency [1978], Jeffrey Escoffier's master code [1985], Sandra Bem's schema [1981], John R. Searle's Background [1990, 1992, 1995] and Judith Butler's linguistic norms [1993].

Jeffrey Escoffier [1995] has argued that this heretical breach of the modernist credo can plausibly be argued to have been made by Keynes because he was attempting to create an ethical space for buggery in post religious ethics; i.e., to articulate an alternative to the then dominant modernist - and implicitly heterosexist - philosophical vogue which had been offered by his teacher and a leading English philosopher at that time, G. E. Moore, which, itself, was an attempt to find a nonreligious basis for ethics.

Keynes [1921, pp. 309-310] is explicit in making the connection of his innovation of subjective probability to G. E. Moore and Moggridge [1992, ch. 5, esp. pp. 112-119] adds details for this claim. Escoffier [1995, p. 28-34] notes that Moore's Principia Ethica "was implicitly based on a frequency interpretation of probability ... [and] [i]n his chapter on conduct Moore treated the statistical norms of social behavior as the basis of ethical norms. Keynes was intrigued by this 'curious connexion between 'probable' and 'ought'.' Keynes's work on probability was an original exploration of the logic of making judgments about the probable consequences of human actions." Escoffier conjectures that "Keynes and [Lytton] Strachey were unable to accept Moore's reliance on customary morals and conventions because it would have led to the disapproval of their homosexuality".

Keynes as a student lecturing other students, members of the Apostles, at Cambridge University shortly after the turn of the century in the midst of the queer panic which dominated thinking in Britain following the trial of Oscar Wilde, "repudiated entirely customary morals, conventions and traditional wisdom. We were, that is to say, in the strict sense of the term, immoralists." André Gide's elevation of this term had been printed 17 years before Keynes presented his autobiographical essay, "My early beliefs," at the Memoir Club from which the preceding quote is taken [Keynes, 1972]. Some sense of the intensity of the homophobia - the queer panic - which grew out of the trial of Oscar Wilde and which dominated the thinking of leading people like Bertrand Russell and D. H. Lawrence can be gotten from Moggridge's [1992] Appendix 2 to ch. 5, pp. 136-140, especially where Lawrence writes about a meeting with Keynes: "I never knew what it meant until I saw K[eynes] ..." and earlier in the same letter: "It is foolish of you to say it doesn't matter either way - the men loving men. It doesn't matter in a public way. But it matters so much, ... to the man himself - at any rate to us northern nations [sic] - that it is like a blow of triumphant decay, ... It is so wrong, it is unbearable. ... so repulsive as if it came from a deep inward dirt - a sort of sewer - deep in men like K[eynes] ... & D[uncan] G[rant]."

References Amariglio, Jack, "Economics as a postmodern discourse," ch. 2, pp. 15 -46 in Warren J. Samuels, "Economics As Discourse: An Analysis of the Language of Economists" [1990] Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Anscombe, F. J. and R. J. Aumann, "A definition of subjective probability," "Annals of Mathematical Statistics" [1963] 199-205.

Bateman, Bradley W. 1987. Keynes's changing conception of probability. Economics and Philosophy 3(1): 97-120.

Bem, Sandra Lipsitz, "Gender schema theory: a cognitive account of set typing," "Psychological Review" 88, 4 [1981] 354-364.

Blaug, Mark, "Recent biographies of Keynes," "Journal of Economic Literature" 32, 3 [September 1994] 1204-1215.

Butler, Judith, "Bodies That Matter: On The Discursive Limits of 'Sex'" [1993] New York: Routledge.

Cornwall, Richard R., "deconstructing silence: the queer political economy of the social articulation of desire" "Review of Radical Political Economics" 29, 1 [March 1997]

Escoffier, Jeffrey, "Sexual revolution and the politics of gay identity," "Socialist Review" 15 [July-October, 1985] 119-153.

Escoffier, Jeffrey, "John Maynard Keynes" [1995] New York: Chelsea House Publishers.

Keynes, John Maynard, "My early beliefs," in "Essays in Biography, The Collected Writings," vol. 10 [1972] London: Macmillan.

Keynes, John Maynard, "The general theory of employment," "Quarterly Journal of Economics" 51, 2 [1937] 209-223.

Keynes, John Maynard, "A Treatise on Probability" [1943, originally 1921] London: Macmillan.

Lindley, Dennis V., "John Maynard Keynes: Contributions to Statistics," pp. 375-376 in vol. 8 of "International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences" [1968] New York: Macmillan Company & The Free Press.

Moggridge, D. E., "Maynard Keynes: An Economist's Biography" [1992] London: Routledge.

Ponse, Barbara, Identities in the Lesbian World [1978] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Ramsey, Frank Plumpton, "Truth and probability," ch. VII, pp. 156-198 in "The Foundations of Mathematics and other Logical Essays" edited by R. B. Braithwaite, with a preface by G. E. Moore [1960, orig. 1931] Paterson, New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams & Co.

Savage, Leonard J., "The Foundations of Statistics" [1972, originally 1954] New York: Dover.

Searle, John R., "The Construction of Social Reality" [1995] New York: The Free Press.

Searle, John R., "The Rediscovery of the Mind" [1992] Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Searle, John R., "Collective intentions and actions," ch. 19, pp. 401-415 in Philip R. Cohen, Jerry Morgan, and Martha E. Pollack (eds) "Intentions in Communication" [1990] Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. --- End Forwarded Message ---

-- Rosser Jr, John Barkley rosserjb at jmu.edu

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