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Risk and Rationality

Oxford University Press (2013)

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  1. Instrumental Rationality Without Separability.Johanna Thoma - 2020 - 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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  • The explanatory role of consistency requirements.Marc-Kevin Daoust - 2020 - Synthese 197 (10):4551-4569.
    Is epistemic inconsistency a mere symptom of having violated other requirements of rationality—notably, reasons-responsiveness requirements? Or is inconsistency irrational on its own? This question has important implications for the debate on the normativity of epistemic rationality. In this paper, I defend a new account of the explanatory role of the requirement of epistemic consistency. Roughly, I will argue that, in cases where an epistemically rational agent is permitted to believe P and also permitted to disbelieve P, the consistency requirement plays (...)
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  • Is risk aversion irrational? Examining the “fallacy” of large numbers.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2020 - Synthese 197 (10):4425-4437.
    A moderately risk averse person may turn down a 50/50 gamble that either results in her winning $200 or losing $100. Such behaviour seems rational if, for instance, the pain of losing $100 is felt more strongly than the joy of winning $200. The aim of this paper is to examine an influential argument that some have interpreted as showing that such moderate risk aversion is irrational. After presenting an axiomatic argument that I take to be the strongest case for (...)
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  • Expected Comparative Utility Theory: A New Theory of Rational Choice.David Robert - 2018 - Philosophical Forum 49 (1):19-37.
    This paper proposes a new theory of rational choice, Expected Comparative Utility (ECU) Theory. It is first argued that for any decision option, a, and any state of the world, G, the measure of the choiceworthiness of a in G is the comparative utility 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 principle, it is then argued, roughly (...)
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  • On the Individuation of Choice Options.Roberto Fumagalli - 2020 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 50 (4):338-365.
    Decision theorists have attempted to accommodate several violations of decision theory’s axiomatic requirements by modifying how agents’ choice options are individuated and formally represented. In recent years, prominent authors have worried that these modifications threaten to trivialize decision theory, make the theory unfalsifiable, impose overdemanding requirements on decision theorists, and hamper decision theory’s internal coherence. In this paper, I draw on leading descriptive and normative works in contemporary decision theory to address these prominent concerns. In doing so, I articulate and (...)
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  • Jamesian Epistemology Formalised: An Explication of ‘the Will to Believe’.Richard Pettigrew - 2016 - Episteme 13 (3):253-268.
    Famously, William James held that there are two commandments that govern our epistemic life: Believe truth! Shun error! In this paper, I give a formal account of James' claim using the tools of epistemic utility theory. I begin by giving the account for categorical doxastic states – that is, full belief, full disbelief, and suspension of judgment. Then I will show how the account plays out for graded doxastic states – that is, credences. The latter part of the paper thus (...)
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  • Avoiding Risk and Avoiding Evidence.Catrin Campbell-Moore & Bernhard Salow - 2020 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (3):495-515.
    It is natural to think that there is something epistemically objectionable about avoiding evidence, at least in ideal cases. We argue that this thought is inconsistent with a kind of risk-avoidance...
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  • Justification Logic with Confidence.Ted Shear & John Quiggin - 2020 - Studia Logica 108 (4):751-778.
    Justification logics are a family of modal logics whose non-normal modalities are parametrised by a type-theoretic calculus of terms. The first justification logic was developed by Sergei Artemov to provide an explicit modal logic for arithmetical provability in which these terms were taken to pick out proofs. But, justification logics have been given various other interpretations as well. In this paper, we will rely on an interpretation in which the modality \ is read ‘S accepts \ as justification for \’. (...)
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  • Epistemic Modality, Mind, and Mathematics.Hasen Khudairi - 2020 - Dissertation, University of St Andrews
    This book concerns the foundations of epistemic modality. I examine the nature of epistemic modality, when the modal operator is interpreted as concerning both apriority and conceivability, as well as states of knowledge and belief. The book demonstrates how epistemic modality relates to the computational theory of mind; metaphysical modality; deontic modality; the types of mathematical modality; to the epistemic status of undecidable propositions and abstraction principles in the philosophy of mathematics; to the apriori-aposteriori distinction; to the modal profile of (...)
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  • God Meets Satan’s Apple: The Paradox of Creation.Rubio Daniel - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (12):2987-3004.
    It is now the majority view amongst philosophers and theologians that any world could have been better. This places the choice of which world to create into an especially challenging class of decision problems: those that are discontinuous in the limit. I argue that combining some weak, plausible norms governing this type of problem with a creator who has the attributes of the god of classical theism results in a paradox: no world is possible. After exploring some ways out of (...)
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  • 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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  • No Escape From Allais: Reply to Buchak.Johanna Thoma & Jonathan Weisberg - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (9):2493-2500.
    In Risk and Rationality, Lara Buchak advertised REU theory as able to recover the modal preferences in the Allais paradox. But we pointed out that REU theory only applies in the “grand world” setting, where it actually struggles with the modal Allais preferences. Buchak offers two replies. Here we enumerate technical and philosophical problems they face.
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  • Thinking, Acting, Considering.Daniel Muñoz - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):255-270.
    According to a familiar (alleged) requirement on practical reason, one must believe a proposition if one is to take it for granted in reasoning about what to do. This paper explores a related requirement, not on thinking but on acting—that one must accept a goal if one is to count as acting for its sake. This is the acceptance requirement. Although it is endorsed by writers as diverse as Christine Korsgaard, Donald Davidson, and Talbot Brewer, I argue that it is (...)
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  • Moderate Skeptical Invariantism.Davide Fassio - 2020 - Erkenntnis 85 (4):841-870.
    I introduce and defend a view about knowledge that I call Moderate Skeptical Invariantism. According to this view, a subject knows p only if she is practically certain that p, where practical certainty is defined as the confidence a rational subject would have to have for her to believe that p and act on p no matter the stakes. I do not provide a definitive case for this view, but I argue that it has several explanatory advantages over alternative views (...)
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  • Grading Modal Judgement.Nate Charlow - 2020 - Mind 129 (515):769-807.
    This paper proposes a new model of graded modal judgment. It begins by problematizing the phenomenon: given plausible constraints on the logic of epistemic modality, it is impossible to model graded attitudes toward modal claims as judgments of probability targeting epistemically modal propositions. This paper considers two alternative models, on which modal operators are non-proposition-forming: (1) Moss (2015), in which graded attitudes toward modal claims are represented as judgments of probability targeting a “proxy” proposition, belief in which would underwrite belief (...)
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  • Dr. Truthlove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bayesian Probabilities.Kenny Easwaran - 2016 - Noûs 50 (4):816-853.
    Many philosophers have argued that "degree of belief" or "credence" is a more fundamental state grounding belief. Many other philosophers have been skeptical about the notion of "degree of belief", and take belief to be the only meaningful notion in the vicinity. This paper shows that one can take belief to be fundamental, and ground a notion of "degree of belief" in the patterns of belief, assuming that an agent has a collection of beliefs that isn't dominated by some other (...)
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  • Beliefs About the Unobserved.Chloé de Canson - 2020 - Dissertation, London School of Economics
    What should one believe about the unobserved? My thesis is a collection of four papers, each of which addresses this question. In the first paper, “Why Subjectivism?”, I consider the standing of a position called radical subjective Bayesianism, or subjectivism. The view is composed of two claims—that agents ought to be logically omniscient, and that there is no further norm of rationality—both of which are subject to seemingly conclusive objections. In this paper, I seek, if not to rehabilitate subjectivism, at (...)
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  • Exceeding Expectations: Stochastic Dominance as a General Decision Theory.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    The principle that rational agents should maximize expected utility or choiceworthiness is intuitively plausible in many ordinary cases of decision-making under uncertainty. But it is less plausible in cases of extreme, low-probability risk (like Pascal's Mugging), and intolerably paradoxical in cases like the St. Petersburg and Pasadena games. In this paper I show that, under certain conditions, stochastic dominance reasoning can capture most of the plausible implications of expectational reasoning while avoiding most of its pitfalls. Specifically, given sufficient background uncertainty (...)
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  • Public Policy, Consequentialism, the Environment, and Non-Human Animals.Mark Budolfson & Dean Spears - unknown
    The focus of this chapter is public policy and consequentialism, especially issues that arise in connection with the environment – i.e. the natural world, including non-human animals. We integrate some of the existing literature on environmental economics, welfare economics, and policy with the literature on environmental values and philosophy. The emphasis on environmental policy is motivated by the fact that it is arguably the most philosophically interesting and challenging application of consequentialism to policy, as it includes all the challenges of (...)
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  • Epistemological Aspects of Hope.Matthew A. Benton - 2019 - In Claudia Blöser & Titus Stahl (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Hope. London: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 135-151.
    Hope is an attitude with a distinctive epistemological dimension: it is incompatible with knowledge. This chapter examines hope as it relates to knowledge but also to probability and inductive considerations. Such epistemic constraints can make hope either impossible, or, when hope remains possible, they affect how one’s epistemic situation can make hope rational rather than irrational. Such issues are especially relevant to when hopefulness may permissibly figure in practical deliberation over a course of action. So I consider cases of second-order (...)
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  • Accuracy, Risk, and the Principle of Indifference.Richard G. Pettigrew - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (1):35-59.
    In Bayesian epistemology, the problem of the priors is this: How should we set our credences (or degrees of belief) in the absence of evidence? That is, how should we set our prior or initial credences, the credences with which we begin our credal life? David Lewis liked to call an agent at the beginning of her credal journey a superbaby. The problem of the priors asks for the norms that govern these superbabies. -/- The Principle of Indifference gives a (...)
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  • Transformative Experience and the Knowledge Norms for Action: Moss on Paul’s Challenge to Decision Theory.Richard Pettigrew - 2020 - In Becoming Someone New: Essays on Transformative Experience, Choice, and Change. New York, NY, USA:
    to appear in Lambert, E. and J. Schwenkler (eds.) Transformative Experience (OUP) -/- L. A. Paul (2014, 2015) argues that the possibility of epistemically transformative experiences poses serious and novel problems for the orthodox theory of rational choice, namely, expected utility theory — I call her argument the Utility Ignorance Objection. In a pair of earlier papers, I responded to Paul’s challenge (Pettigrew 2015, 2016), and a number of other philosophers have responded in similar ways (Dougherty, et al. 2015, Harman (...)
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  • How Valuable Are Chances?H. Orri Stefánsson & Richard Bradley - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (4):602-625.
    Chance Neutrality is the thesis that, conditional on some proposition being true, its chance of being true should be a matter of practical indifference. The aim of this article is to examine whether Chance Neutrality is a requirement of rationality. We prove that given Chance Neutrality, the Principal Principle entails a thesis called Linearity; the centerpiece of von Neumann and Morgenstern’s expected utility theory. With this in mind, we argue that the Principal Principle is a requirement of practical rationality but (...)
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  • Aggregating Causal Judgments.Richard Bradley, Franz Dietrich & Christian List - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (4):491-515.
    Decision-making typically requires judgments about causal relations: we need to know the causal effects of our actions and the causal relevance of various environmental factors. We investigate how several individuals' causal judgments can be aggregated into collective causal judgments. First, we consider the aggregation of causal judgments via the aggregation of probabilistic judgments, and identify the limitations of this approach. We then explore the possibility of aggregating causal judgments independently of probabilistic ones. Formally, we introduce the problem of causal-network aggregation. (...)
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  • Counterfactual Desirability.Richard Bradley & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2):485-533.
    The desirability of what actually occurs is often influenced by what could have been. Preferences based on such value dependencies between actual and counterfactual outcomes generate a class of problems for orthodox decision theory, the best-known perhaps being the so-called Allais Paradox. In this paper we solve these problems by extending Richard Jeffrey's decision theory to counterfactual prospects, using a multidimensional possible-world semantics for conditionals, and showing that preferences that are sensitive to counterfactual considerations can still be desirability maximising. We (...)
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  • Veritism, Epistemic Risk, and the Swamping Problem.Richard Pettigrew - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):761-774.
    Veritism says that the fundamental source of epistemic value for a doxastic state is the extent to which it represents the world correctly: that is, its fundamental epistemic value is deter...
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  • Abstracta and Possibilia: Modal Foundations of Mathematical Platonism.Hasen Khudairi - manuscript
    This paper aims to provide modal foundations for mathematical platonism. I examine Hale and Wright’s (2009) objections to the merits and need, in the defense of mathematical platonism and its epistemology, of the thesis of Necessitism. In response to Hale and Wright’s objections to the role of epistemic and metaphysical modalities in providing justification for both the truth of abstraction principles and the success of mathematical predicate reference, I examine the Necessitist commitments of the abundant conception of properties endorsed by (...)
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  • This Paper Might Change Your Mind.Josh Dever & Henry Ian Schiller - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Rational decision change can happen without information change. This is a problem for standard views of decision theory, on which linguistic intervention in rational decision-making is captured in terms of information change. But the standard view gives us no way to model interventions involving expressions that only have an attentional effects on conversational contexts. How are expressions with non-informational content - like epistemic modals - used to intervene in rational decision making? We show how to model rational decision change without (...)
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  • The Sequential Dominance Argument for the Independence Axiom of Expected Utility Theory.Johan E. Gustafsson - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Independence is the condition that, if X is preferred to Y, then a lottery between X and Z is preferred to a lottery between Y and Z given the same probability of Z. Is it rationally required that one’s preferences conform to Independence? The main objection to this requirement is that it would rule out the alleged rationality of Allais and Ellsberg Preferences. In this paper, I put forward a sequential dominance argument with fairly weak assumptions for a variant of (...)
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  • Forms of Luminosity.Hasen Khudairi - 2017
    This dissertation concerns the foundations of epistemic modality. I examine the nature of epistemic modality, when the modal operator is interpreted as concerning both apriority and conceivability, as well as states of knowledge and belief. The dissertation demonstrates how phenomenal consciousness and gradational possible-worlds models in Bayesian perceptual psychology relate to epistemic modal space. The dissertation demonstrates, then, how epistemic modality relates to the computational theory of mind; metaphysical modality; deontic modality; logical modality; the types of mathematical modality; to the (...)
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  • The Problem of State-Dependent Utility: A Reappraisal.Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz024.
    State-dependent utility is a problem for the behavioural branch of decision theory under uncertainty. It questions the very possibility that beliefs be revealed by choice data. According to the current literature, all models of beliefs are equally exposed to the problem. Moreover, the problem is solvable only when the decision-maker can influence the resolution of uncertainty. This article gives grounds to reject these two views. The various models of beliefs can be shown to be unequally exposed to the problem of (...)
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  • The Game of Belief.Barry Maguire & Jack Woods - 2020 - Philosophical Review 129 (2):211-249.
    It is plausible that there are epistemic reasons bearing on a distinctively epistemic standard of correctness for belief. It is also plausible that there are a range of practical reasons bearing on what to believe. These theses are often thought to be in tension with each other. Most significantly for our purposes, it is obscure how epistemic reasons and practical reasons might interact in the explanation of what one ought to believe. We draw an analogy with a similar distinction between (...)
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  • What Matters and How It Matters: A Choice-Theoretic Representation of Moral Theories.Franz Dietrich & Christian List - 2017 - Philosophical Review 126 (4):421-479.
    We present a new “reason-based” approach to the formal representation of moral theories, drawing on recent decision-theoretic work. We show that any moral theory within a very large class can be represented in terms of two parameters: a specification of which properties of the objects of moral choice matter in any given context, and a specification of how these properties matter. Reason-based representations provide a very general taxonomy of moral theories, as differences among theories can be attributed to differences in (...)
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  • Objective Value Is Always Newcombizable.Arif Ahmed & Jack Spencer - forthcoming - Mind:fzz070.
    This paper argues that evidential decision theory is incompatible with options having objective values.
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  • Normative Decision Theory.Edward Elliott - 2019 - Analysis 79 (4):755-772.
    A review of some major topics of debate in normative decision theory from circa 2007 to 2019. Topics discussed include the ongoing debate between causal and evidential decision theory, decision instability, risk-weighted expected utility theory, decision-making with incomplete preferences, and decision-making with imprecise credences.
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  • A Dutch Book Theorem for Quantificational Credences.Benjamin Lennertz - 2017 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4.
    In this paper, I present an argument for a rational norm involving a kind of credal attitude called a quantificational credence – the kind of attitude we can report by saying that Lucy thinks that each record in Schroeder’s collection is 5% likely to be scratched. I prove a result called a Dutch Book Theorem, which constitutes conditional support for the norm. Though Dutch Book Theorems exist for norms on ordinary and conditional credences, there is controversy about the epistemic significance (...)
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  • Credal Pragmatism.Jie Gao - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (6):1595-1617.
    According to doxastic pragmatism, certain perceived practical factors, such as high stakes and urgency, have systematic effects on normal subjects’ outright beliefs. Upholders of doxastic pragmatism have so far endorsed a particular version of this view, which we may call threshold pragmatism. This view holds that the sensitivity of belief to the relevant practical factors is due to a corresponding sensitivity of the threshold on the degree of credence necessary for outright belief. According to an alternative but yet unrecognised version (...)
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  • Decision-Theoretic Relativity in Deontic Modality.Nate Charlow - 2018 - Linguistics and Philosophy 41 (3):251-287.
    This paper explores the idea that a semantics for ‘ought’ should be neutral between different ways of deciding what an agent ought to do in a situation. While the idea is, I argue, well-motivated, taking it seriously leads to surprising, even paradoxical, problems for theorizing about the meaning of ‘ought’. This paper describes and defends one strategy—a form of Expressivism for the modal ‘ought’—for navigating these problems.
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  • On the Interpretation of Decision Theory.Samir Okasha - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-25.
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  • Precis of Risk and Rationality.Lara Buchak - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (9):2363-2368.
    My book Risk and Rationality argues for a new alternative to the orthodox theory of rational decision-making. This alternative, risk-weighted expected utility maximization, holds that there are three important components involved in rational decision-making: utilities, probabilities, and risk-attitudes. This essay explains the basic outline of the theory and precisely how it differs from the orthodox theory. It also summarizes the main threads of argument in the book.
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  • Faith and Steadfastness in the Face of Counter-Evidence.Lara Buchak - 2017 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 81 (1-2):113-133.
    It is sometimes said that faith is recalcitrant in the face of new evidence, but it is puzzling how such recalcitrance could be rational or laudable. I explain this aspect of faith and why faith is not only rational, but in addition serves an important purpose in human life. Because faith requires maintaining a commitment to act on the claim one has faith in, even in the face of counter-evidence, faith allows us to carry out long-term, risky projects that we (...)
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  • Instrumental Rationality Without Separability.Johanna Thoma - 2018 - Erkenntnis:1-22.
    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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  • Should We Wish Well to All?Caspar Hare - 2016 - Philosophical Review 125 (4):451-472.
    Some moral theories tell you, in some situations in which you are interacting with a group of people, to avoid acting in the way that is expectedly best for everybody. This essay argues that such theories are mistaken. Go ahead and do what is expectedly best for everybody. The argument is based on the thought that when interacting with an individual it is fine for you to act in the expected interests of the individual and that many interactions with individuals (...)
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  • Updating as Communication.Sarah Moss - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (2):225-248.
    Traditional procedures for rational updating fail when it comes to self-locating opinions, such as your credences about where you are and what time it is. This paper develops an updating procedure for rational agents with self-locating beliefs. In short, I argue that rational updating can be factored into two steps. The first step uses information you recall from your previous self to form a hypothetical credence distribution, and the second step changes this hypothetical distribution to reflect information you have genuinely (...)
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  • A Representation Theorem for Frequently Irrational Agents.Edward Elliott - 2017 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 46 (5):467-506.
    The standard representation theorem for expected utility theory tells us that if a subject’s preferences conform to certain axioms, then she can be represented as maximising her expected utility given a particular set of credences and utilities—and, moreover, that having those credences and utilities is the only way that she could be maximising her expected utility. However, the kinds of agents these theorems seem apt to tell us anything about are highly idealised, being always probabilistically coherent with infinitely precise degrees (...)
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  • May a Government Mandate More Comprehensive Health Insurance Than Citizens Want for Themselves?Alex Voorhoeve - 2018 - In David Sobel, Peter Vallentyne & Steven Wall (eds.), Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, Vol 4. Oxford University Press. pp. 167-191.
    I critically examine a common liberal egalitarian view about the justification for, and proper content of, mandatory health insurance. This view holds that a mandate is justified because it is the best way to ensure that those in poor health gain health insurance on equitable terms. It also holds that a government should mandate what a representative prudent individual would purchase for themselves if they were placed in fair conditions of choice. I argue that this common justification for a mandate (...)
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  • What Is Risk Aversion?H. Orri Stefánsson & Richard Bradley - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):77-102.
    According to the orthodox treatment of risk preferences in decision theory, they are to be explained in terms of the agent's desires about concrete outcomes. The orthodoxy has been criticised both for conflating two types of attitudes and for committing agents to attitudes that do not seem rationally required. To avoid these problems, it has been suggested that an agent's attitudes to risk should be captured by a risk function that is independent of her utility and probability functions. The main (...)
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  • Rationality and Moral Risk: A Moderate Defense of Hedging.Christian Tarsney - 2017 - Dissertation, University of Maryland
    How should an agent decide what to do when she is uncertain not just about morally relevant empirical matters, like the consequences of some course of action, but about the basic principles of morality itself? This question has only recently been taken up in a systematic way by philosophers. Advocates of moral hedging claim that an agent should weigh the reasons put forward by each moral theory in which she has positive credence, considering both the likelihood that that theory is (...)
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  • Rational Faith and Justified Belief.Lara Buchak - 2014 - In Timothy O'Connor & Laura Frances Callahan (eds.), Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford University Press. pp. 49-73.
    In “Can it be rational to have faith?”, it was argued that to have faith in some proposition consists, roughly speaking, in stopping one’s search for evidence and committing to act on that proposition without further evidence. That paper also outlined when and why stopping the search for evidence and acting is rationally required. Because the framework of that paper was that of formal decision theory, it primarily considered the relationship between faith and degrees of belief, rather than between faith (...)
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  • Time, Hope, and Independence: An Argument for More Structure in Decision Theory.Goreti Faria - unknown
    My thesis explores alternatives to the orthodox model of decision theory. I criticise it by focusing on motivations that, for different reasons, I believe should not be labelled as a consequence. I start by describing what I call the orthodox theory of choice. I describe both the theories proposed by Von Neumann and Morgenstern, and Savage. This is followed by a discussion of the individuation strategy, and, in particular, John Broome’s proposal of an individuation by justifiers ). I then focus (...)
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