Remarks on the idealist and empiricist interpretation of frequentism: Robert Leslie Ellis versus John Venn

Lukas M. Verburgt
University of Amsterdam
The goal of this paper is to correct a widespread misconception about the work of Robert Leslie Ellis and John Venn, namely that it can be considered as the ‘British empiricist’ reaction against the traditional theory of probability. It is argued, instead, that there was no unified ‘British school’ of frequentism during the nineteenth century. Where Ellis arrived at frequentism from a metaphysical idealist transformation of probability theory’s mathematical calculations, Venn did so on the basis of an empiricist critique of its ‘inverse application’.
Keywords Robert Leslie Ellis  John Venn  Frequentism  Probability theory  Logic  British mathematics
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