The Game of Probability: Literature and Calculation from Pascal to Kleist

By Rüdiger Campe; Ellwood H. Wiggins Jr. | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Lambert’s logical and metaphorological investigation into the term “probable” (wahr-scheinlich) and Kant’s quasi-transcendental theory of play are complementary. They exclude each other but can be understood reciprocally as theorizing what the other one does, or as completing in fact what the other sets up in theory. They thus offer a final commentary on Leibniz’s repeatedly renewed announcement of logica probabilium, the theoretical enterprise that culminates in the concept of equipossibility. Jacob Bernoulli had already used it methodologically, but without, however, discussing its philosophical meaning: according to Bernoulli’s mathematical insight, only what can be traced back to the situation of the equal possibilities of the occurrence or nonoccurrence of an event can be calculated in probabilistic terms. Leibniz, on the contrary, had wanted to protect equipossibility, as a cosmological concept of free will, precisely from its merely statistical implementation: in the Leibnizian concept, logic and ontology are so tightly intertwined that the idea of a causality out of free will corresponds to the principle of logical equipossibility. Lambert’s appearance of truth and Kant’s distinction between the probable and plausible, each in its own way, remove the substantial content of this ontological construction without erasing its former place and function in philosophy. Lambert formulates a theory of mere—operational— appearance in probability. Kant, meanwhile, in practice applies his statistical examples in the context of aesthetics and the philosophy of history in this manner of mere appearance; but in theory, he shuns once and for

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