The Logic of Chance/Preface 1876


The principal reason for designating this volume a second edition consists in the fact that the greater portion of what may be termed the first edition is incorporated into it. Besides various omissions (principally where the former treatment has since seemed to me needlessly prolix), I have added new matter, not much inferior in amount to the whole of the original work. In addition, moreover, to these alterations in the matter, the general arrangement of the subject as regards the successive chapters has been completely changed; the former arrangement having been (as it now seems to me) justly objected to as deficient and awkward in method.

After saying this, it ought to be explained whether any change of general view or results will be found in the present treatment.

The general view of Probability adopted is quite unchanged, further reading and reflection having only confirmed me in the conviction that this is the soundest and most fruitful way of regarding the subject. It is the more necessary to say this, as to a cursory reader it might seem otherwise; owing to my having endeavoured to avoid the needlessly polemical tone which, as is often the case with those who are making their first essay in writing upon any subject, was doubtless too prominent in the former edition. I have not thought it necessary, of course, except in one or two cases, to indicate points of detail which it has seemed necessary to correct.

A number of new discussions have been introduced upon topics which were but little or not at all treated before. The principal of these refer to the nature and physical origin of Laws of Error (Ch. ii.); the general view of Logic, and consequently of Probability, termed the Material view, adopted here (Ch. x.); a brief history and criticism of the various opinions held on the subject of Modality (Ch. xii.); the logical principles underlying the method of Least Squares (Ch. xiii.); and the practices of Insurance and Gambling, so far as the principles involved in them are concerned (Ch. xv.). The Chapter on the Credibility of Extraordinary Stories is also mainly new; this was the portion of the former work which has since seemed to me the least satisfactory, but owing to the extreme intricacy of the subject I am far from feeling thoroughly satisfied with it even now.

I have again to thank several friends for the assistance they have so kindly afforded. Amongst these I must prominently mention Mr C. J. Monro, late fellow of Trinity. It is only the truth to say that I have derived more assistance from his suggestions and criticisms than has been consciously obtained from all other external sources together. Much of this criticism has been given privately in letters, and notes on the proof-sheets; but one of the most elaborate of his discussions of the subject was communicated to the Cambridge Philosophical Society some years ago; as it was not published, however, I am unfortunately unable to refer the reader to it. I ought to add that he is not in any way committed to any of my opinions upon the subject, from some of which in fact he more or less dissents. I am also much indebted to Mr J. W. L. Glaisher, also of Trinity College, for many hints and references to various publications upon the subject of Least Squares, and for careful criticism (given in the midst of much other labour) of the chapter in which that subject is treated.

I need not add that, like every one else who has had to discuss the subject of Probability during the last ten years, I have made constant use of Mr Todhunter's History.

I may take this opportunity of adding that a considerable portion of the tenth chapter has recently appeared in the January number of Mind, and that the substance of several chapters, especially in the more logical parts, has formed part of my ordinary lectures in Cambridge; the foundation and logical treatment of Probability being now expressly included in the Schedule of Subjects for the Moral Sciences Tripos.

March, 1876.