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  1. How to model lexical priority.Martin Smith - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    A moral requirement R1 is said to be lexically prior to a moral requirement R2 just in case we are morally obliged to uphold R1 at the expense of R2 – no matter how many times R2 must be violated thereby. While lexical priority is a feature of many ethical theories, and arguably a part of common sense morality, attempts to model it within the framework of decision theory have led to a series of problems – a fact which is (...)
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  2. Suspension of judgment, non-additivity, and additivity of possibilities.Aldo Filomeno - forthcoming - Acta Analytica:1-22.
    In situations where we ignore everything but the space of possibilities, we ought to suspend judgment—that is, remain agnostic—about which of these possibilities is the case. This means that we cannot sum our degrees of belief in different possibilities, something that has been formalized as an axiom of non-additivity. Consistent with this way of representing our ignorance, I defend a doxastic norm that recommends that we should nevertheless follow a certain additivity of possibilities: even if we cannot sum degrees of (...)
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  3. Counterfactual Decision Theory.Brian Hedden - 2023 - Mind 132 (527):730-761.
    I defend counterfactual decision theory, which says that you should evaluate an action in terms of which outcomes would likely obtain were you to perform it. Counterfactual decision theory has traditionally been subsumed under causal decision theory as a particular formulation of the latter. This is a mistake. Counterfactual decision theory is importantly different from, and superior to, causal decision theory, properly so called. Causation and counterfactuals come apart in three kinds of cases. In cases of overdetermination, an action can (...)
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  4. Decision under normative uncertainty.Franz Dietrich & Brian Jabarian - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (3):372-394.
    While ordinary decision theory focuses on empirical uncertainty, real decision-makers also face normative uncertainty: uncertainty about value itself. From a purely formal perspective, normative uncertainty is comparable to (Harsanyian or Rawlsian) identity uncertainty in the 'original position', where one's future values are unknown. A comprehensive decision theory must address twofold uncertainty -- normative and empirical. We present a simple model of twofold uncertainty, and show that the most popular decision principle -- maximising expected value (`Expectationalism') -- has different formulations, namely (...)
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  5. Decision theory and de minimis risk.Martin Smith - 2024 - Erkenntnis 89 (6):2169-2192.
    A de minimis risk is defined as a risk that is so small that it may be legitimately ignored when making a decision. While ignoring small risks is common in our day-to-day decision making, attempts to introduce the notion of a de minimis risk into the framework of decision theory have run up against a series of well-known difficulties. In this paper, I will develop an enriched decision theoretic framework that is capable of overcoming two major obstacles to the modelling (...)
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  6. The Parts of an Imperfect Agent.Sara Aronowitz - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind.
    Formal representations drawn from rational choice theory have been used in a variety of ways to fruitfully model the way in which actual agents are approximately rational. This analysis requires bridging between ideal normative theory, in which the mechanisms, representations, and other such internal parts are in an important sense interchangeable, and descriptive psychological theory, in which understanding the internal workings of the agent is often the main goal of the entire inquiry. In this paper, I raise a problem brought (...)
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  7. Expected utility theory, Jeffrey’s decision theory, and the paradoxes.Philippe Mongin & Jean Baccelli - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1):695-713.
    In Richard Bradley’s book, Decision Theory with a Human Face, we have selected two themes for discussion. The first is the Bolker-Jeffrey theory of decision, which the book uses throughout as a tool to reorganize the whole field of decision theory, and in particular to evaluate the extent to which expected utility theories may be normatively too demanding. The second theme is the redefinition strategy that can be used to defend EU theories against the Allais and Ellsberg paradoxes, a strategy (...)
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  8. Why Should We Try to be Sustainable? Expected Consequences and the Ethics of Making an Indeterminate Difference.Howard Nye - 2021 - In Chelsea Miya, Oliver Rossier & Geoffrey Rockwell (eds.), Right Research: Modelling Sustainable Research Practices in the Anthropocene. Open Book Publishers. pp. 3-35.
    Why should we refrain from doing things that, taken collectively, are environmentally destructive, if our individual acts seem almost certain to make no difference? According to the expected consequences approach, we should refrain from doing these things because our individual acts have small risks of causing great harm, which outweigh the expected benefits of performing them. Several authors have argued convincingly that this provides a plausible account of our moral reasons to do things like vote for policies that will reduce (...)
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  9. Rationality and Success.Preston Greene - 2013 - Dissertation, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
    Standard theories of rational decision making and rational preference embrace the idea that there is something special about the present. Standard decision theory, for example, demands that agents privilege the perspective of the present (i.e., the time of decision) in evaluating what to do. When forming preferences, most philosophers believe that a similar focus on the present is justified, at least in the sense that rationality requires or permits future experiences to be given more weight than past ones. In this (...)
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  10. Radical interpretation and decision theory.Anandi Hattiangadi & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6473-6494.
    This paper takes issue with an influential interpretationist argument for physicalism about intentionality based on the possibility of radical interpretation. The interpretationist defends the physicalist thesis that the intentional truths supervene on the physical truths by arguing that it is possible for a radical interpreter, who knows all of the physical truths, to work out the intentional truths about what an arbitrary agent believes, desires, and means without recourse to any further empirical information. One of the most compelling arguments for (...)
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  11. Fully Bayesian Aggregation.Franz Dietrich - 2021 - Journal of Economic Theory 194:105255.
    Can a group be an orthodox rational agent? This requires the group's aggregate preferences to follow expected utility (static rationality) and to evolve by Bayesian updating (dynamic rationality). Group rationality is possible, but the only preference aggregation rules which achieve it (and are minimally Paretian and continuous) are the linear-geometric rules, which combine individual values linearly and combine individual beliefs geometrically. Linear-geometric preference aggregation contrasts with classic linear-linear preference aggregation, which combines both values and beliefs linearly, but achieves only static (...)
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  12. Instrumental Rationality Without Separability.Johanna Thoma - 2018 - Erkenntnis 85 (5):1219-1240.
    This paper argues that instrumental rationality is more permissive than expected utility theory. The most compelling instrumentalist argument in favour of separability, its core requirement, is that agents with non-separable preferences end up badly off by their own lights in some dynamic choice problems. I argue that once we focus on the question of whether agents’ attitudes to uncertain prospects help define their ends in their own right, or instead only assign instrumental value in virtue of the outcomes they may (...)
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  13. Epistemic Decision Theory's Reckoning.Conor Mayo-Wilson & Gregory Wheeler - manuscript
    Epistemic decision theory (EDT) employs the mathematical tools of rational choice theory to justify epistemic norms, including probabilism, conditionalization, and the Principal Principle, among others. Practitioners of EDT endorse two theses: (1) epistemic value is distinct from subjective preference, and (2) belief and epistemic value can be numerically quantified. We argue the first thesis, which we call epistemic puritanism, undermines the second.
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  14. Risk aversion and the long run.Johanna Thoma - 2018 - Ethics 129 (2):230-253.
    This article argues that Lara Buchak’s risk-weighted expected utility (REU) theory fails to offer a true alternative to expected utility theory. Under commonly held assumptions about dynamic choice and the framing of decision problems, rational agents are guided by their attitudes to temporally extended courses of action. If so, REU theory makes approximately the same recommendations as expected utility theory. Being more permissive about dynamic choice or framing, however, undermines the theory’s claim to capturing a steady choice disposition in the (...)
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  15. Advice for the Steady: Decision Theory and the Requirements of Instrumental Rationality.Johanna Thoma - 2017 - Dissertation, University of Toronto
    Standard decision theory, or rational choice theory, is often interpreted to be a theory of instrumental rationality. This dissertation argues, however, that the core requirements of orthodox decision theory cannot be defended as general requirements of instrumental rationality. Instead, I argue that these requirements can only be instrumentally justified to agents who have a desire to have choice dispositions that are stable over time and across different choice contexts. Past attempts at making instrumentalist arguments for the core requirements of decision (...)
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  16. Belief revision generalized: A joint characterization of Bayes's and Jeffrey's rules.Franz Dietrich, Christian List & Richard Bradley - 2016 - Journal of Economic Theory 162:352-371.
    We present a general framework for representing belief-revision rules and use it to characterize Bayes's rule as a classical example and Jeffrey's rule as a non-classical one. In Jeffrey's rule, the input to a belief revision is not simply the information that some event has occurred, as in Bayes's rule, but a new assignment of probabilities to some events. Despite their differences, Bayes's and Jeffrey's rules can be characterized in terms of the same axioms: "responsiveness", which requires that revised beliefs (...)
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  17. How to rationally approach life's transformative experiences.Marcus Arvan - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (8):1199-1218.
    In a widely discussed forthcoming article, “What you can't expect when you're expecting,” L. A. Paul challenges culturally and philosophically traditional views about how to rationally make major life-decisions, most specifically the decision of whether to have children. The present paper argues that because major life-decisions are transformative, the only rational way to approach them is to become resilient people: people who do not “over-plan” their lives or expect their lives to play out “according to plan”—people who understand that beyond (...)
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  18. Reason-based choice and context-dependence: An explanatory framework.Franz Dietrich & Christian List - 2016 - Economics and Philosophy 32 (2):175-229.
    We introduce a “reason-based” framework for explaining and predicting individual choices. It captures the idea that a decision-maker focuses on some but not all properties of the options and chooses an option whose motivationally salient properties he/she most prefers. Reason-based explanations allow us to distinguish between two kinds of context-dependent choice: the motivationally salient properties may (i) vary across choice contexts, and (ii) include not only “intrinsic” properties of the options, but also “context-related” properties. Our framework can accommodate boundedly rational (...)
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  19. Review of Mark Kaplan: Decision Theory as Philosophy[REVIEW]Adam Morton - 1999 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (3):505-507.
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  20. The paradox of the Bayesian experts.Philippe Mongin - 2001 - In David Corfield & Jon Williamson (eds.), Foundations of Bayesianism. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 309-338.
    This paper (first published under the same title in Journal of Mathematical Economics, 29, 1998, p. 331-361) is a sequel to "Consistent Bayesian Aggregation", Journal of Economic Theory, 66, 1995, p. 313-351, by the same author. Both papers examine mathematically whether the the following assumptions are compatible: the individuals and the group both form their preferences according to Subjective Expected Utility (SEU) theory, and the preferences of the group satisfy the Pareto principle with respect to those of the individuals. While (...)
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  21. Decision theory, symmetry and causal structure: Reply to Meacham and Weisberg.Michael Clark & Nicholas Shackel - 2003 - Mind 112 (448):691-701.
    1Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK. [email protected] of Philosophy, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK. [email protected].
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  22. Modelling Change in Individual Characteristics: An Axiomatic Framework.Franz Dietrich - 2012 - Games and Economic Behavior 76 (5):471-94.
    Economic models describe individuals in terms of underlying characteristics, such as taste for some good, sympathy level for another player, time discount rate, risk attitude, and so on. In real life, such characteristics change through experiences: taste for Mozart changes through listening to it, sympathy for another player through observing his moves, and so on. Models typically ignore change, not just for simplicity but also because it is unclear how to incorporate change. I introduce a general axiomatic framework for defining, (...)
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Causal Decision Theory
  1. Causal decision theory, context, and determinism.Calum McNamara - 2024 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 109 (1):226-260.
    The classic formulation of causal decision theory (CDT) appeals to counterfactuals. It says that you should aim to choose an option that would have a good outcome, were you to choose it. However, this version of CDT faces trouble if the laws of nature are deterministic. After all, the standard theory of counterfactuals says that, if the laws are deterministic, then if anything—including the choice you make—were different in the present, either the laws would be violated or the distant past (...)
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  2. Newcomb, frustrated.Rhys Borchert & Jack Spencer - forthcoming - Analysis.
    This paper develops a hybridization of Newcomb’s Problem and the Frustrater (Spencer and Wells 2019 paper ‘Why take both boxes?’), underscoring how difficult it is to reconcile the rationality of taking both boxes in Newcomb’s Problem and the rationality of taking the envelope in the Frustrater.
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  3. On the plurality of counterfactuals.Ben Holguín & Trevor Teitel - manuscript
    Counterfactuals are context-sensitive. However, we argue that various debates and doctrines in metaphysics and the philosophy of science are premised on ignoring the full extent of counterfactual context-sensitivity. Our focus is on the prominent "miracle" versus "no-miracle" debate about counterfactuals under the assumption that our laws of nature are deterministic. But we also discuss doctrines that employ counterfactuals in theories of rational decision, as well as doctrines that explain what it is to be a law of nature in terms of (...)
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  4. Counterfactual Decision Theory Is Causal Decision Theory.J. Dmitri Gallow - 2024 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 105 (1):115-156.
    The role of causation and counterfactuals in causal decision theory is vexed and disputed. Recently, Brian Hedden (2023) argues that we should abandon causal decision theory in favour of an alternative: counterfactual decision theory. I argue that, pace Hedden, counterfactual decision theory is not a competitor to, but rather a version of, causal decision theory – the most popular version by far. I provide textual evidence that the founding fathers of causal decision theory (Stalnaker, Gibbard, Harper, Lewis, Skyrms, Sobel, and (...)
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  5. The End of Decision Theory.Brian Weatherson - manuscript
    What question are decision theorists trying to answer, and why is it worth trying to answer it? A lot of philosophers talk as if the aim of decision theory is to describe how we should make decisions, and the reason to do this is to help us make better decisions. I disagree on both fronts. The aim of the decision theory is to describe how a certain kind of idealised decider does in fact decide. And the reason to do this (...)
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  6. The Chances of Choices.Reuben Stern - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
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  7. Law-Abiding Causal Decision Theory.Timothy Luke Williamson & Alexander Sandgren - 2023 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 74 (4):899-920.
    In this paper we discuss how Causal Decision Theory should be modified to handle a class of problematic cases involving deterministic laws. Causal Decision Theory, as it stands, is problematically biased against your endorsing deterministic propositions (for example it tells you to deny Newtonian physics, regardless of how confident you are of its truth). Our response is that this is not a problem for Causal Decision Theory per se, but arises because of the standard method for assessing the truth of (...)
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  8. Decision and foreknowledge.J. Dmitri Gallow - 2024 - Noûs 58 (1):77-105.
    My topic is how to make decisions when you possess foreknowledge of the consequences of your choice. Many have thought that these kinds of decisions pose a distinctive and novel problem for causal decision theory (CDT). My thesis is that foreknowledge poses no new problems for CDT. Some of the purported problems are not problems. Others are problems, but they are not problems for CDT. Rather, they are problems for our theories of subjunctive supposition. Others are problems, but they are (...)
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  9. Causal Fictionalism.Antony Eagle - 2024 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), Alternative Philosophical Approaches to Causation: Beyond Difference-making and Mechanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Causation appears to present us with an interpretative difficulty. While arguably a redundant relation given fundamental physics, it is nevertheless apparently pragmatically indispensable. This chapter revisits certain arguments made previously by the author for these claims with the benefit of hindsight, starting with the role of causal models in the human sciences, and attempting to explain why it is not possible to straightforwardly ground such models in fundamental physics. This suggests that further constraints, going beyond physics, are needed to legitimate (...)
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  10. Causal counterfactuals without miracles or backtracking.J. Dmitri Gallow - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 107 (2):439-469.
    If the laws are deterministic, then standard theories of counterfactuals are forced to reject at least one of the following conditionals: 1) had you chosen differently, there would not have been a violation of the laws of nature; and 2) had you chosen differently, the initial conditions of the universe would not have been different. On the relevant readings—where we hold fixed factors causally independent of your choice—both of these conditionals appear true. And rejecting either one leads to trouble for (...)
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  11. Cogito and Moore.David James Barnett - 2023 - Synthese 202 (1):1-27.
    Self-verifying judgments like _I exist_ seem rational, and self-defeating ones like _It will rain, but I don’t believe it will rain_ seem irrational_._ But one’s evidence might support a self-defeating judgment, and fail to support a self-verifying one. This paper explains how it can be rational to defy one’s evidence if judgment is construed as a mental performance or act, akin to inner assertion. The explanation comes at significant cost, however. Instead of causing or constituting beliefs, judgments turn out to (...)
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  12. Unspecific Evidence and Normative Theories of Decision.Rhys Borchert - forthcoming - Episteme:1-23.
    The nature of evidence is a problem for epistemology, but I argue that this problem intersects with normative decision theory in a way that I think is underappreciated. Among some decision theorists, there is a presumption that one can always ignore the nature of evidence while theorizing about principles of rational choice. In slogan form: decision theory only cares about the credences agents actually have, not the credences they should have. I argue against this presumption. In particular, I argue that (...)
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  13. The Sure Thing Principle Leads to Instability.J. Dmitri Gallow - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly.
    Orthodox causal decision theory is unstable. Its advice changes as you make up your mind about what you will do. Several have objected to this kind of instability and explored stable alternatives. Here, I'll show that explorers in search of stability must part with a vestige of their homeland. There is no plausible stable decision theory which satisfies Savage's Sure Thing Principle. So those in search of stability must learn to live without it.
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  14. Aptness and means-end coherence: a dominance argument for causal decision theory.J. Robert G. Williams - 2023 - Synthese 201 (2):1-19.
    Why should we be means-end rational? Why care whether someone’s mental states exhibit certain formal patterns, like the ones formalized in causal decision theory? This paper establishes a dominance argument for these constraints in a finite setting. If you violate the norms of causal decision theory, then your desires will be aptness dominated. That is, there will be some alternative set of desires that you could have had, which would be more apt (closer to the actual values fixed by your (...)
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  15. Newcomb’s Problem, Arif Ahmed (editor). Cambridge University Press, 2018, 233 pages. [REVIEW]J. Dmitri Gallow - 2020 - Economics and Philosophy 36 (1):171-176.
    Newcomb’s Problem, Arif Ahmed (editor). Cambridge University Press, 2018, 233 pages.
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  16. Confession of a causal decision theorist.Adam Elga - 2022 - Analysis 82 (2):203-213.
    (1) Suppose that you care only about speaking the truth, and are confident that some particular deterministic theory is true. If someone asks you whether that theory is true, are you rationally required to answer "yes"? -/- (2) Suppose that you face a problem in which (as in Newcomb's problem) one of your options---call it "taking two boxes"---causally dominates your only other option. Are you rationally required to take two boxes? -/- Those of us attracted to causal decision theory are (...)
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  17. Escaping the Cycle.J. Dmitri Gallow - 2022 - Mind 131 (521):99-127.
    I present a decision problem in which causal decision theory appears to violate the independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA) and normal-form extensive-form equivalence (NEE). I show that these violations lead to exploitable behavior and long-run poverty. These consequences appear damning, but I urge caution. This decision should lead causalists to a better understanding of what it takes for a decision between some collection of options to count as a subdecision of a decision between a larger collection of options. And with (...)
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  18. Tournament decision theory.Abelard Podgorski - 2020 - Noûs 56 (1):176-203.
    The dispute in philosophical decision theory between causalists and evidentialists remains unsettled. Many are attracted to the causal view’s endorsement of a species of dominance reasoning, and to the intuitive verdicts it gets on a range of cases with the structure of the infamous Newcomb’s Problem. But it also faces a rising wave of purported counterexamples and theoretical challenges. In this paper I will describe a novel decision theory which saves what is appealing about the causal view while avoiding its (...)
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  19. Ancestor Simulations and the Dangers of Simulation Probes.David Braddon-Mitchell & Andrew J. Latham - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-11.
    Preston Greene (2020) argues that we should not conduct simulation investigations because of the risk that we might be terminated if our world is a simulation designed to research various counterfactuals about the world of the simulators. In response, we propose a sequence of arguments, most of which have the form of an "even if” response to anyone unmoved by our previous arguments. It runs thus: (i) if simulation is possible, then simulators are as likely to care about simulating simulations (...)
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  20. It Can Be Irrational to Knowingly Choose the Best.J. Dmitri Gallow - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    Jack Spencer argues we should reject a decision rule called MaxRat because it's incompatible with this principle: If you know that you will choose an option, x, and you know that x is better than every other option available to you, then it is permissible for you to choose x. I agree with Spencer that defenders of MaxRat should reject this principle. However, I disagree insofar as he suggests that he and orthodox causalists are in a position to accept it. (...)
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  21. Can It Be Irrational to Knowingly Choose the Best?Jack Spencer - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (1):128-139.
    Seeking a decision theory that can handle both the Newcomb problems that challenge evidential decision theory and the unstable problems that challenge causal decision theory, some philosophers recently have turned to ‘graded ratifiability’. However, the graded ratifiability approach to decision theory is, despite its virtues, unsatisfactory; for it conflicts with the platitude that it is always rationally permissible for an agent to knowingly choose their best option.
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  22. The Evidentialist's Wager.William MacAskill, Aron Vallinder, Caspar Oesterheld, Carl Shulman & Johannes Treutlein - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (6):320-342.
    Suppose that an altruistic agent who is uncertain between evidential and causal decision theory finds herself in a situation where these theories give conflicting verdicts. We argue that even if she has significantly higher credence in CDT, she should nevertheless act in accordance with EDT. First, we claim that the appropriate response to normative uncertainty is to hedge one's bets. That is, if the stakes are much higher on one theory than another, and the credences you assign to each of (...)
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  23. Self-Knowledge Requirements and Moore's Paradox.David James Barnett - 2021 - Philosophical Review 130 (2):227-262.
    Is self-knowledge a requirement of rationality, like consistency, or means-ends coherence? Many claim so, citing the evident impropriety of asserting, and the alleged irrationality of believing, Moore-paradoxical propositions of the form < p, but I don't believe that p>. If there were nothing irrational about failing to know one's own beliefs, they claim, then there would be nothing irrational about Moore-paradoxical assertions or beliefs. This article considers a few ways the data surrounding Moore's paradox might be marshaled to support rational (...)
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  24. An Interventionist’s Guide to Exotic Choice.Reuben Stern - 2021 - Mind 130 (518):537-566.
    In this paper, I use interventionist causal models to identify some novel Newcomb problems, and subsequently use these problems to refine existing interventionist treatments of causal decision theory. The new Newcomb problems that make trouble for existing interventionist treatments involve so-called ‘exotic choice’—that is, decision-making contexts where the agent has evidence about the outcome of her choice. I argue that when choice is exotic, the interventionist can adequately capture causal decision-theoretic reasoning by introducing a new interventionist approach to updating on (...)
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  25. Rational monism and rational pluralism.Jack Spencer - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):1769-1800.
    Consequentialists often assume rational monism: the thesis that options are always made rationally permissible by the maximization of the selfsame quantity. This essay argues that consequentialists should reject rational monism and instead accept rational pluralism: the thesis that, on different occasions, options are made rationally permissible by the maximization of different quantities. The essay then develops a systematic form of rational pluralism which, unlike its rivals, is capable of handling both the Newcomb problems that challenge evidential decision theory and the (...)
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  26. An argument against causal decision theory.Jack Spencer - 2021 - Analysis 81 (1):52-61.
    This paper develops an argument against causal decision theory. I formulate a principle of preference, which I call the Guaranteed Principle. I argue that the preferences of rational agents satisfy the Guaranteed Principle, that the preferences of agents who embody causal decision theory do not, and hence that causal decision theory is false.
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  27. Determinism, Counterfactuals, and Decision.Alexander Sandgren & Timothy Luke Williamson - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (2):286-302.
    Rational agents face choices, even when taking seriously the possibility of determinism. Rational agents also follow the advice of Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Although many take these claims to be well-motivated, there is growing pressure to reject one of them, as CDT seems to go badly wrong in some deterministic cases. We argue that deterministic cases do not undermine a counterfactual model of rational deliberation, which is characteristic of CDT. Rather, they force us to distinguish between counterfactuals that are relevant (...)
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  28. Frustration and Delay.Arif Ahmed - manuscript
    A decision problem where Causal Decision Theory (CDT) declines a free $1,000, with the foreseeable effect that the agent is $1,000 poorer, and in no other way better off, than if she had taken the offer.
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1 — 50 / 161