Decision Theory

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  1. A Restatement of Expected Comparative Utility Theory: A New Theory of Rational Choice Under Risk.David Robert - 2021 - Philosophical Forum:1–23.
    In this paper, I argue for a new normative theory of rational choice under risk, namely expected comparative utility (ECU) theory. I first show that for any choice option, a, and for any state of the world, G, the measure of the choiceworthiness of a in G is the comparative utility (CU) of a in G—that is, the difference in utility, in G, between a and whichever alternative to a carries the greatest utility in G. On the basis of this (...)
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  2. World Domination in Decision Theory and Formal Epistemology.Stephen Yablo -
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  3. The Fundamental Unity Of Voluntary And Involuntary Actions.Aadarsh Singh - manuscript
    Social structure of our society decides the actions that are allowed by any individual human being. All the actions of an individual are characterized into voluntary or involuntary actions, which decides the behaviour of society towards that individual for that action. In this paper it has been shown that the characterization of action into these two categories is fundamentally flawed.
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  4. Philosophy and Digitization: Dangers and Possibilities in the New Digital Worlds.Esther Oluffa Pedersen & Maria Brincker - 2021 - SATS 22 (1):1-9.
    Our world is under going an enormous digital transformation. Nearly no area of our social, informational, political, economic, cultural, and biological spheres are left unchanged. What can philosophy contribute as we try to under- stand and think through these changes? How does digitization challenge past ideas of who we are and where we are headed? Where does it leave our ethical aspirations and cherished ideals of democracy, equality, privacy, trust, freedom, and social embeddedness? Who gets to decide, control, and harness (...)
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  5. Intention, Modality, & Decision Theory.Hasen Khudairi - manuscript
    This paper argues that the types of intention can be modeled as modal operators. I delineate the intensional-semantic profiles of the types of intention, and provide a precise account of how the types of intention are unified in virtue of both their operations in a single, encompassing, epistemic modal space, and their role in practical reasoning. I endeavor to provide reasons adducing against the proposal that the types of intention are reducible to the mental states of belief and desire, where (...)
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  6. Continuity and Catastrophic Risk.H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-9.
    Suppose that a decision-maker's aim, under certainty, is to maximise some continuous value, such as lifetime income or continuous social welfare. Can such a decision-maker rationally satisfy what has been called "continuity for easy cases" while at the same time satisfying what seems to be a widespread intuition against the full-blown continuity axiom of expected utility theory? In this note I argue that the answer is "no": given transitivity and a weak trade-off principle, continuity for easy cases violates the anti-continuity (...)
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  7. Beyond Uncertainty: Reasoning with Unknown Possibilities.Katie Steele & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    The main aim of this book is to introduce the topic of limited awareness, and changes in awareness, to those interested in the philosophy of decision-making and uncertain reasoning. (This is for the series Elements of Decision Theory published by Cambridge University Press and edited by Martin Peterson).
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  8. De l'Optimisme.Olivier Massin - 2019 - Chroniques Universitaires 2019:58-73.
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  9. Do We Really Need a Knowledge-Based Decision Theory?Davide Fassio & Jie Gao - forthcoming - Synthese:1-29.
    The paper investigates what type of motivation can be given for adopting a knowledge-based decision theory (hereafter, KBDT). KBDT seems to have several advantages over competing theories of rationality. It is commonly argued that this theory would naturally fit with the intuitive idea that being rational is doing what we take to be best given what we know, an idea often supported by appeal to ordinary folk appraisals. Moreover, KBDT seems to strike a perfect balance between the problematic extremes of (...)
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  10. Pascal's Mugger Strikes Again.Dylan Balfour - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (1):118-124.
    In a well-known paper, Nick Bostrom presents a confrontation between a fictionalised Blaise Pascal and a mysterious mugger. The mugger persuades Pascal to hand over his wallet by exploiting Pascal's commitment to expected utility maximisation. He does so by offering Pascal an astronomically high reward such that, despite Pascal's low credence in the mugger's truthfulness, the expected utility of accepting the mugging is higher than rejecting it. In this article, I present another sort of high value, low credence mugging. This (...)
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  11. The Tragedy of the Risk Averse.H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-14.
    Those who are risk averse with respect to money, and thus turn down some gambles with positive monetary expectations, are nevertheless often willing to accept bundles involving multiple such gambles. Therefore, it might seem that such people should become more willing to accept a risky but favourable gamble if they put it in context with the collection of gambles that they predict they will be faced with in the future. However, it turns out that when a risk averse person adopts (...)
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  12. Fragmentation and Logical Omniscience.Adam Elga & Agustin Rayo - forthcoming - Noûs.
    It would be good to have a Bayesian decision theory that assesses our decisions and thinking according to everyday standards of rationality — standards that do not require logical omniscience (Garber 1983, Hacking 1967). To that end we develop a “fragmented” decision theory in which a single state of mind is represented by a family of credence functions, each associated with a distinct choice condition (Lewis 1982, Stalnaker 1984). The theory imposes a local coherence assumption guaranteeing that as an agent's (...)
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  13. Weighing and Aggregating Reasons Under Uncertainty: A Trilemma.Ittay Nissan-Rozen - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    I discuss the trilemma that consists of the following three principles being inconsistent: 1. The Common Principle: if one distribution, A, necessarily brings a higher total sum of personal value that is distributed in a more egalitarian way than another distribution, B, A is more valuable than B. 2. (Weak) ex-ante Pareto: if one uncertain distribution, A, is more valuable than another uncertain distribution, B, for each patient, A is more valuable than B. 3. Pluralism about attitudes to risk (Pluralism): (...)
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  14. Regret Averse Opinion Aggregation.Lee Elkin - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    It is often suggested that when opinions differ among individuals in a group, the opinions should be aggregated to form a compromise. This paper compares two approaches to aggregating opinions, linear pooling and what I call opinion agglomeration. In evaluating both strategies, I propose a pragmatic criterion, No Regrets, entailing that an aggregation strategy should prevent groups from buying and selling bets on events at prices regretted by their members. I show that only opinion agglomeration is able to satisfy the (...)
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  15. Reasoning In Versus About Attitudes: How Attitude Formation is Beyond Logic.Franz Dietrich & Antonios Staras - manuscript
    One reasons not just in beliefs, but also in intentions, preferences, and other attitudes. For instance, one forms preferences from preferences, or intentions from beliefs and preferences. Formal logic has proved useful for modelling reasoning in beliefs -- the formation of beliefs from beliefs. Can logic also model reasoning in multiple attitudes? We identify principled obstacles. Logic can model reasoning about attitudes. But this models the discovery of attitudes of (usually) others, not the formation of one's own attitudes. Beliefs are (...)
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  16. In Favor of Mentalism in Economics: A Conversation with Christian List.Christian List & Catherine Herfeld - forthcoming - In Catherine Herfeld (ed.), Conversations on Rational Choice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This is an edited transcript of a conversation to be included in the collection "Conversations on Rational Choice". The conversation was conducted in Munich on 7 and 9 February 2016.
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  17. I Knew I Shouldn’T Do It; But I Did It: Davidson on Causal Strength and Weakness of Will.Rafael Martins - 2019 - Investigação Filosófica 10 (2):05-20.
    Reasons for action is a widely employed methodology in practical philosophy, and especially in moral philosophy. Reasons are facts that explain and justify actions. But, conceptually, if reasons were causes, incontinent actions would be impossible. When an agent ranks an evaluation about what to do as his best judgement, it entails that he has a reason for acting as that judgement prescribes. But when an agent acts incontinently, he acts in accordance to an intention that is not aligned with his (...)
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  18. Incomplete Preference and Indeterminate Comparative Probability.Yang Liu - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axaa009.
    The notion of comparative probability defined in Bayesian subjectivist theory stems from an intuitive idea that, for a given pair of events, one event may be considered “more probable” than the other. Yet it is conceivable that there are cases where it is indeterminate as to which event is more probable, due to, e.g., lack of robust statistical information. We take that these cases involve indeterminate comparative probabilities. This paper provides a Savage-style decision-theoretic foundation for indeterminate comparative probabilities.
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  19. Життєвий цикл соціально-економічних систем.Sergii Sardak - 2016 - Маркетинг І Менеджмент Інновацій 1:157-169.
    У статті розглянуто ознаки системи, особливості соціально-економічних систем та системного підходу. Враховано вплив аксіоматики, закономірностей та законів на розвиток систем. Досліджено циклічні закономірності у різнорівневих соціально-економічних системах. Визначено проблемно-дискусійні питання та спільні системні ознаки циклічності. Ідентифіковано структуру життєвого циклу соціально-економічної системи із визначенням загальних та конкретних складових елементів повторюваних змін за позасистемними та системними показниками.
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  20. A Broomean Model of Rationality and Reasoning.Franz Dietrich, Antonios Staras & Robert Sugden - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy 116 (11):585-614.
    John Broome has developed an account of rationality and reasoning which gives philosophical foundations for choice theory and the psychology of rational agents. We formalize his account into a model that differs from ordinary choice-theoretic models through focusing on psychology and the reasoning process. Within that model, we ask Broome’s central question of whether reasoning can make us more rational: whether it allows us to acquire transitive preferences, consistent beliefs, non-akratic intentions, and so on. We identify three structural types of (...)
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  21. Why Be Random?Thomas Icard - 2021 - Mind 130 (517):fzz065.
    When does it make sense to act randomly? A persuasive argument from Bayesian decision theory legitimizes randomization essentially only in tie-breaking situations. Rational behaviour in humans, non-human animals, and artificial agents, however, often seems indeterminate, even random. Moreover, rationales for randomized acts have been offered in a number of disciplines, including game theory, experimental design, and machine learning. A common way of accommodating some of these observations is by appeal to a decision-maker’s bounded computational resources. Making this suggestion both precise (...)
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  22. “Cheating Death in Damascus” Solution to the Fermi Paradox.Alexey Turchin & Roman Yampolskiy - manuscript
    One of the possible solutions of the Fermi paradox is that all civilizations go extinct because they hit some Late Great Filter. Such a universal Late Great Filter must be an unpredictable event that all civilizations unexpectedly encounter, even if they try to escape extinction. This is similar to the “Death in Damascus” paradox from decision theory. However, this unpredictable Late Great Filter could be escaped by choosing a random strategy for humanity’s future development. However, if all civilizations act randomly, (...)
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  23. An Intrapersonal Addition Paradox.Jacob M. Nebel - 2019 - Ethics 129 (2):309-343.
    I present a new argument for the repugnant conclusion. The core of the argument is a risky, intrapersonal analogue of the mere addition paradox. The argument is important for three reasons. First, some solutions to Parfit’s original puzzle do not obviously generalize to the intrapersonal puzzle in a plausible way. Second, it raises independently important questions about how to make decisions under uncertainty for the sake of people whose existence might depend on what we do. And, third, it suggests various (...)
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  24. On the Limits of the Precautionary Principle.H. Orri Stefansson - 2019 - Risk Analysis 39 (6):1204-1222.
    The Precautionary Principle (PP) is an influential principle of risk management. It has been widely introduced into environmental legislation, and it plays an important role in most international environmental agreements. Yet, there is little consensus on precisely how to understand and formulate the principle. In this paper I prove some impossibility results for two plausible formulations of the PP as a decision-rule. These results illustrate the difficulty in making the PP consistent with the acceptance of any trade-offs between catastrophic risks (...)
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  25. A Simpler and More Realistic Subjective Decision Theory.Haim Gaifman & Yang Liu - 2018 - Synthese 195 (10):4205--4241.
    In his classic book “the Foundations of Statistics” Savage developed a formal system of rational decision making. The system is based on (i) a set of possible states of the world, (ii) a set of consequences, (iii) a set of acts, which are functions from states to consequences, and (iv) a preference relation over the acts, which represents the preferences of an idealized rational agent. The goal and the culmination of the enterprise is a representation theorem: Any preference relation that (...)
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  26. Ramsey and Joyce on Deliberation and Prediction.Yang Liu & Huw Price - 2020 - Synthese 197:4365-4386.
    Can an agent deliberating about an action A hold a meaningful credence that she will do A? 'No', say some authors, for 'Deliberation Crowds Out Prediction' (DCOP). Others disagree, but we argue here that such disagreements are often terminological. We explain why DCOP holds in a Ramseyian operationalist model of credence, but show that it is trivial to extend this model so that DCOP fails. We then discuss a model due to Joyce, and show that Joyce's rejection of DCOP rests (...)
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  27. Side Effects and the Structure of Deliberation.Grant Rozeboom - 2015 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 9 (2):1-19.
    There is a puzzle about the very possibility of foreseen but unintended side effects, and solving this puzzle requires us to revise our basic picture of the structure of practical deliberation. The puzzle is that, while it seems that we can rationally foresee, but not intend, bringing about foreseen side effects, it also seems that we rationally must decide to bring about foreseen side effects and that we intend to do whatever we decide to do. I propose solving this puzzle (...)
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  28. Surreal Decisions.Eddy Keming Chen & Daniel Rubio - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):54-74.
    Although expected utility theory has proven a fruitful and elegant theory in the finite realm, attempts to generalize it to infinite values have resulted in many paradoxes. In this paper, we argue that the use of John Conway's surreal numbers shall provide a firm mathematical foundation for transfinite decision theory. To that end, we prove a surreal representation theorem and show that our surreal decision theory respects dominance reasoning even in the case of infinite values. We then bring our theory (...)
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  29. Heart of DARCness.Yang Liu & Huw Price - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (1):136-150.
    There is a long-standing disagreement in the philosophy of probability and Bayesian decision theory about whether an agent can hold a meaningful credence about an upcoming action, while she deliberates about what to do. Can she believe that it is, say, 70% probable that she will do A, while she chooses whether to do A? No, say some philosophers, for Deliberation Crowds Out Prediction (DCOP), but others disagree. In this paper, we propose a valid core for DCOP, and identify terminological (...)
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  30. Climate Change Assessments: Confidence, Probability and Decision.Richard Bradley, Casey Helgeson & Brian Hill - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (3):500–522.
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has developed a novel framework for assessing and communicating uncertainty in the findings published in their periodic assessment reports. But how should these uncertainty assessments inform decisions? We take a formal decision-making perspective to investigate how scientific input formulated in the IPCC’s novel framework might inform decisions in a principled way through a normative decision model.
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  31. Introduction: The Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics.Anna Marmodoro - 2015 - Topoi 34 (2):309-311.
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  32. Making Decisions About the Future: Regret and the Cognitive Function of Episodic Memory.Christoph Hoerl & Teresa McCormack - 2016 - In Kourken Michaelian, Stanley Klein & Karl Szpunar (eds.), Seeing the future: Theoretical perspectives on future-oriented mental time travel. Oxford University Press. pp. 241-266.
    In the recent literature on episodic memory, there has been increasing recognition of the need to provide an account of its adaptive function. In this context, it is sometimes argued that episodic memory is critical for certain forms of decision making about the future. We criticize existing accounts that try to give episodic memory a role in decision making, before giving a novel such account of our own. This turns on the thought of a link between episodic memory and the (...)
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  33. Acting and Satisficing.Sergio Tenenbaum - 2015 - In George Pavlakos & Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco (eds.), Reasons and Intentions in Law and Practical Agency. Cambridge University Press. pp. 31-51.
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  34. Against the Possibility of a Formal Account of Rationality.Shivaram Lingamneni - manuscript
    I analyze a recent exchange between Adam Elga and Julian Jonker concerning unsharp (or imprecise) credences and decision-making over them. Elga holds that unsharp credences are necessarily irrational; I agree with Jonker's reply that they can be rational as long as the agent switches to a nonlinear valuation. Through the lens of computational complexity theory, I then argue that even though nonlinear valuations can be rational, they come in general at the price of computational intractability, and that this problematizes their (...)
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  35. Mentalism Versus Behaviourism in Economics: A Philosophy-of-Science Perspective.Franz Dietrich & Christian List - 2016 - Economics and Philosophy 32 (2):249-281.
    Behaviourism is the view that preferences, beliefs, and other mental states in social-scientific theories are nothing but constructs re-describing people's behaviour. Mentalism is the view that they capture real phenomena, on a par with the unobservables in science, such as electrons and electromagnetic fields. While behaviourism has gone out of fashion in psychology, it remains influential in economics, especially in ‘revealed preference’ theory. We defend mentalism in economics, construed as a positive science, and show that it fits best scientific practice. (...)
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  36. Democracy & Decision: The Pure Theory of Electoral Preference, Geoffery Brennan and Loren Lomasky. Cambridge University Press, 1993, 225 + X Pages. [REVIEW]David Estlund - 1996 - Economics and Philosophy 12 (1):113.
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  37. Framing as Path Dependence.Natalie Gold & Christian List - 2004 - Economics and Philosophy 20 (2):253-277.
    A framing effect occurs when an agent's choices are not invariant under changes in the way a decision problem is presented, e.g. changes in the way options are described (violation of description invariance) or preferences are elicited (violation of procedure invariance). Here we identify those rationality violations that underlie framing effects. We attribute to the agent a sequential decision process in which a “target” proposition and several “background” propositions are considered. We suggest that the agent exhibits a framing effect if (...)
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  38. Aggregating Sets of Judgments: An Impossibility Result.Christian List & Philip Pettit - 2002 - Economics and Philosophy 18 (1):89-110.
    Suppose that the members of a group each hold a rational set of judgments on some interconnected questions, and imagine that the group itself has to form a collective, rational set of judgments on those questions. How should it go about dealing with this task? We argue that the question raised is subject to a difficulty that has recently been noticed in discussion of the doctrinal paradox in jurisprudence. And we show that there is a general impossibility theorem that that (...)
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  39. Review of McLennen *Rationality and Dynamic Choice*. [REVIEW]Adam Morton - 1992 - Mind 101 (402):381-383.
    review of McLennen's *Rationality and Dynamic Choice*. The topic is important and the discussion is powerful. Some connection with modelling and simulation would be valuable.
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Decision-Theoretic Frameworks
  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. Savage’s Response to Allais as Broomean Reasoning.Franz Dietrich, Antonios Staras & Robert Sugden - 2020 - Journal of Economic Methodology 28 (2).
    Savage famously contravened his own theory when first confronting the Allais Paradox, but then convinced himself that he had made an error. We examine the formal structure of Savage’s ‘error-correcting’ reasoning in the light of (i) behavioural economists’ claims to identify the latent preferences of individuals who violate conventional rationality requirements and (ii) Broome’s critique of arguments which presuppose that rationality requirements can be achieved through reasoning. We argue that Savage’s reasoning is not vulnerable to Broome’s critique, but does not (...)
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  4. Radical Interpretation and Decision Theory.Anandi Hattiangadi & H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Synthese:1-22.
    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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  5. Fully Bayesian Aggregation.Franz Dietrich - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Theory.
    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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  6. 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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  7. Decision Under Normative Uncertainty.Franz Dietrich & Brian Jabarian - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
    While ordinary decision theory focuses on empirical uncertainty, real decision-makers also face normative uncertainty: uncertainty about value itself. Normative uncertainty is comparable to (Harsanyian or Rawlsian) uncertainty in the 'original position', where one's 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 rival formulations, namely Ex-Ante Expectationalism, Ex-Post Expectationalism, and hybrid theories. (...)
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  8. Expected utility theory, Jeffrey’s decision theory, and the paradoxes.Philippe Mongin & Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - Synthese:1-19.
    In Richard Bradley's book, Decision Theory with a Human Face (2017), we have selected two themes for discussion. The first is the Bolker-Jeffrey (BJ) 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 (EU) 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 (...)
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  9. 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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  10. 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 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 face (...)
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  11. Advice for the Steady: Decision Theory and the Requirements of Instrumental Rationality.Johanna Thoma - 2017 - Dissertation,
    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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