skip to content

Faculty of Economics

Journal Cover

Faulkner, P., Feduzi, A., and Runde, J.

Unknowns, Black Swans and the risk/uncertainty distinction

Cambridge Journal of Economics

Vol. 41(5) pp. 1279-1302 (2017)

Abstract: Tony Lawson’s work on probability and uncertainty is both an important contribution to the heterodox canon as well as a notable early strand of his ongoing enquiry into the nature of social reality. In keeping with most mainstream and heterodox discussions of uncertainty in economics, however, Lawson focuses on situations in which the objects of uncertainty are imagined and can be stated in a way that, potentially at least, allows them to be the subject of probability judgments. This focus results in a relative neglect of the kind of uncertainties that flow from the existence of possibilities that do not even enter the imagination and which are therefore ruled out as the subject of probability judgments. This paper explores uncertainties of the latter kind, starting with and building on Donald Rumsfeld’s famous observations about known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Various connections are developed, first with Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan, and then with Lawson’s Keynes-inspired interpretation of uncertainty.

Author links: Phil Faulkner  

Publisher's Link: https://doi.org/10.1093/cje/bex035

Open Access Full Text: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/264212



Papers and Publications



Recent Publications


Bhattacharya, D., Dupas, P. and Kanaya, S. Demand and Welfare Analysis in Discrete Choice Models with Social Interactions Review of Economic Studies, accepted [2023]

Merrick Li, Z. and Linton, O. A ReMeDI for Microstructure Noise Econometrica [2022]

Iyer, S. Religion and Discrimination: A Review Essay of Persecution and Toleration: The Long Road to Religious Freedom Journal of Economic Literature [2022]

Corsetti, G., Crowley, M. A. and Han, L. Invoicing and the Dynamics of Pricing-to-Market: Evidence from UK Export Prices around the Brexit Referendum Journal of International Economics [2022]