This article documents the history of the Allais paradox, and shows that underneath the many discussions of the various protagonists lay different, irreconcilable epistemological positions. Savage, like his mentor von Neumann and similar to economist Friedman, worked from an epistemology of generalized characterizations. Allais, on the other hand, like economists Samuelson and Baumol, started from an epistemology of exact descriptions in which every axiom was an empirical claim that could be refuted directly by observations. As a result, the two sides failed to find a common ground. Only a few decades later was the now so-called Allais paradox rediscovered as an important precursor when a new behavioural economic subdiscipline started to adopt the epistemology of exact descriptions and its accompanying falsifications of rational choice theory.
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