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This article proposes a new theory of rational decision, distinct from both causal decision theory (CDT) and evidential decision theory (EDT). First, some intuitive counterexamples to CDT and EDT are presented. Then the motivation for the new theory is given: the correct theory of rational decision will resemble CDT in that it will not be sensitive to any comparisons of absolute levels of value across different states of nature, but only to comparisons of the differences in value between the available (...) 

This paper is a response to Paul Bartha’s ‘Making Do Without Expectations’. We provide an assessment of the strengths and limitations of two notable extensions of standard decision theory: relative expectation theory and Paul Bartha’s relative utility theory. These extensions are designed to provide intuitive answers to some wellknown problems in decision theory involving gaps in expectations. We argue that both RET and RUT go some way towards providing solutions to the problems in question but neither extension solves all the (...) 

The DesireasBelief thesis (DAB) states that any rational person desires a proposition exactly to the degree that she believes or expects the proposition to be good. Many people take David Lewis to have shown the thesis to be inconsistent with Bayesian decision theory. However, as we show, Lewis's argument was based on an Invariance condition that itself is inconsistent with the (standard formulation of the) version of Bayesian decision theory that he assumed in his arguments against DAB. The aim of (...) 



I present a decision problem in which orthodox causal decision theory appears to violate weak versions of the independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA) and normalform extensiveform equivalence (NEE). I show that these violations lead to exploitable behavior and longrun poverty. These consequences appear damning, but I urge caution. Causalists can dispute the charge that they violate IIA and NEE in this case by carefully specifying when two options in different decision problems are similar enough to be counted as the same. 

Humean reductionism about laws of nature appears to leave a central aspect of scientific practice unmotivated: If the world’s fundamental structure is exhausted by the actual distribution of nonmodal properties and the laws of nature are merely efficient summaries of this distribution, then why does science posit laws that cover a wide range of nonactual circumstances? In this paper, we develop a new version of the Humean best systems account of laws based on the idea that laws need to organize (...) 

A handful of wellknown arguments (the 'diachronic Dutch book arguments') rely upon theorems establishing that, in certain circumstances, you are immune from sure monetary loss (you are not 'diachronically Dutch bookable') if and only if you adopt the strategy of conditionalizing (or Jeffrey conditionalizing) on whatever evidence you happen to receive. These theorems require nontrivial assumptions about which evidence you might acquirein the case of conditionalization, the assumption is that, if you might learn that e, then it is not the (...) 

The externalist says that your evidence could fail to tell you what evidence you do or not do have. In that case, it could be rational for you to be uncertain about what your evidence is. This is a kind of uncertainty which orthodox Bayesian epistemology has difficulty modeling. For, if externalism is correct, then the orthodox Bayesian learning norms of conditionalization and reflection are inconsistent with each other. I recommend that an externalist Bayesian reject conditionalization. In its stead, I (...) 

In deciding whether to read this paper, it might seem reasonable for you to base your decision on your confidence (i) that, if you read this paper, you will become a better person. It might also seem reasonable for you to base your decision on your confidence (ii) that, if you were to read this paper, you would become a better person. Is there a difference between (i) and (ii)? If so, are you rationally required to base your decision on (...) 

I explore the prospects for modelling epistemic rationality (in the probabilist setting) via an epistemic decision theory, in a consequentialist spirit. Previous work has focused on cases in which the truthvalues of the propositions in which the agent is selecting credences do not depend, either causally or merely evidentially, on the agent’s choice of credences. Relaxing that restriction leads to a proliferation of puzzle cases and theories to deal with them, including epistemic analogues of evidential and causal decision theory, and (...) 

This paper focuses on the view that rationality requires that our credences be regular. I go through different formulations of the requirement, and show that they face several problems. I then formulate a version of the requirement that solves most of, if not all, these problems. I conclude by showing that an argument thought to support the requirement as traditionally formulated actually does not; if anything, the argument, slightly modified, supports my version of the requirement.Send article to KindleTo send this (...) 

Clark Glymour, together with his students Peter Spirtes and Richard Scheines, did pioneering work on graphical causal models . One of the central advances provided by these models is the ability to simply represent the effects of interventions. In an elegant paper , Glymour and his student Christopher Meek applied these methods to problems in decision theory. One of the morals they drew was that causal decision theory should be understood in terms of interventions. I revisit their proposal, and extend (...) 



Conditional excluded middle (CEM) is the following principe of counterfactual logic: either, if it were the case that φ, it would be the case that ψ, or, if it were the case that φ, it would be the case that notψ. I will first show that CEM entails the identity of indiscernibles, the falsity of physicalism, and the failure of the modal to supervene on the categorical and of the vague to supervene on the precise. I will then argue that (...) 

Suppose that it is rational to choose or intend a course of action if and only if the course of action maximizes some sort of expectation of some sort of value. What sort of value should this definition appeal to? According to an influential neoHumean view, the answer is “Utility”, where utility is defined as a measure of subjective preference. According to a rival neoAristotelian view, the answer is “Choiceworthiness”, where choiceworthiness is an irreducibly normative notion of a course of (...) 

The crucial premise of the standard argument for twoboxing in Newcomb's problem, a causal dominance principle, is false. We present some counterexamples. We then offer a metaethical explanation for why the counterexamples arise. Our explanation reveals a new and superior argument for twoboxing, one that eschews the causal dominance principle in favor of a principle linking rational choice to guidance and actual value maximization. 

It seems natural to think of an unwilling addict as having a pattern of preferences that she does not endorse—preferences that, in some sense, she does not ‘identify’ with. Following Frankfurt (1971), Jeﬀrey (1974) proposed a way of modeling those features of an agent’s preferences by appealing to preferences among preferences.The addict’s preferences are preferences she does not prefer to have. I argue that this modeling suggestion will not do, for it follows from plausible assumptions that a minimally rational agent (...) 

The ontology of decision theory has been subject to considerable debate in the past, and discussion of just how we ought to view decision problems has revealed more than one interesting problem, as well as suggested some novel modifications of classical decision theory. In this paper it will be argued that Bayesian, or evidential, decisiontheoretic characterizations of decision situations fail to adequately account for knowledge concerning the causal connections between acts, states, and outcomes in decision situations, and so they are (...) 



Bryne & Hajek (1997) argue that Lewis’s (1988; 1996) objections to identifying desire with belief do not go through if our notion of desire is ‘causalized’ (characterized by causal, rather than evidential, decision theory). I argue that versions of the argument go through on certain assumptions about the formulation of decision theory. There is one version of causal decision theory where the original arguments cannot be formulated—the ‘imaging’ formulation that Joyce (1999) advocates. But I argue this formulation is independently objectionable. (...) 

*These notes were folded into the published paper "Probability and nonclassical logic*. Revising semantics and logic has consequences for the theory of mind. Standard formal treatments of rational belief and desire make classical assumptions. If we are to challenge the presuppositions, we indicate what is kind of theory is going to take their place. Consider probability theory interpreted as an account of ideal partial belief. But if some propositions are neither true nor false, or are half true, or whatever—then it’s (...) 



Suppose that you have to take a test tomorrow but you do not want to study. Unfortunately you should study, since you care about passing and you expect to pass only if you study. Is there anything you can do to make it the case that you should not study? Is there any way for you to "rationalize" slacking off ? I suggest that such rationalization is impossible. Then I show that if evidential decision theory is true, rationalization is not (...) 

The 'Why ain'cha rich?' argument for oneboxing in Newcomb's problem allegedly vindicates evidential decision theory and undermines causal decision theory. But there is a good response to the argument on behalf of causal decision theory. I develop this response. Then I pose a new problem and use it to give a new 'Why ain'cha rich?' argument. Unlike the old argument, the new argument targets evidential decision theory. And unlike the old argument, the new argument is sound. 

Many philosophers (myself included) have been converted to causal decision theory by something like the following line of argument: Evidential decision theory endorses irrational courses of action in a range of examples, and endorses “an irrational policy of managing the news”. These are fatal problems for evidential decision theory. Causal decision theory delivers the right results in the troublesome examples, and does not endorse this kind of irrational newsmanaging. So we should give up evidential decision theory, and be causal decision (...) 

An evolutionary basis for Bayesian rationality is suggested, by consid ering how natural selection would operate on an organism's `policy' for choosing an action depending on an environmental signal. It is shown that the evolutionarily optimal policy, as judged by the criterion of maximal expected reproductive output, is the policy which for each signal, chooses an action that maximizes conditional expected output given that signal. An organism using such a policy is behaving as if it were a Bayesian agent with (...) 

Sometimes, we think of belief as a phenomenon that comes in degrees – that is, in the many different levels of confidence that a thinker might have in various different propositions. Sometimes, we think of belief as a simple twoplace relation that holds between a thinker and a proposition – that is, as what I shall here call "outright belief". 

Is there any distinctive aspect of rationality that deserves the label of “instrumental rationality”? Recently, Joseph Raz (2005) has argued that instrumental rationality is a “myth”. In this essay, I shall give some qualified support to Raz’s position: as I shall argue, many philosophers have indeed been seduced by certain myths about instrumental rationality. Nonetheless, Raz’s conclusion is too strong. Instrumental rationality is not itself a myth: there really is a distinctive aspect of rationality that deserves the label of “instrumental (...) 

Antiexceptionalism about logic takes logical theories to be continuous with scientific theories. Scientific theories are subject to criteria of theoretical equivalence. This article compares two types of theoretical equivalence – one syntactic and one semantic – in the context of logical antiexceptionalism, and argues that the syntactic approach leads to undesirable consequences. The antiexceptionalist should therefore take a semantic approach when evaluating whether logical theories, understood as scientific theories, are equivalent. This article argues for a particular semantic approach, in terms (...) 

Counterexamples are constructed for classical decision theory, turning on the fact that actions must often be chosen in groups rather than individually, i.e., the objects of rational choice are plans. It is argued that there is no way to define optimality for plans that makes the finding of optimal plans the desideratum of rational decisionmaking. An alternative called “locally global planning” is proposed as a replacement for classical decision theory. Decisionmaking becomes a nonterminating process without a precise target rather than (...) 

_ doi:10.1093/analys/anx072 _, published: 27 June 2017. 

I apply some of the lessons from quantum theory, in particular from Bell’s theorem, to a debate on the foundations of decision theory and causation. By tracing a formal analogy between the basic assumptions of causal decision theory (CDT)—which was developed partly in response to Newcomb’s problem— and those of a local hidden variable theory in the context of quantum mechanics, I show that an agent who acts according to CDT and gives any nonzero credence to some possible causal interpretations (...) 



Probabilistic accounts of causality have long had trouble with ‘spurious’ evidential correlations. Such correlations are also central to the case for causal decision theory—the argument that evidential decision theory is inadequate to cope with certain sorts of decision problem. However, there are now several strong defences of the evidential theory. Here I present what I regard as the best defence, and apply it to the probabilistic approach to causality. I argue that provided a probabilistic theory appeals to the notions of (...) 

Fallibilism is an attractive epistemological position, avoiding the Scylla of rationalism, and the Charybdis of scepticism. Acknowledging, on the one hand, human imperfection, yet claiming that science and rational inquiry are possible. Fallibilism is a thesis, but equally importantly – an epistemological recommendation. that we should never be absolutely sure of anything. My aim in this paper is to drive a wedge between the thesis and the recommendation. The (eminently plausible) doctrine, I shall argue, cannot be used to ground the (...) 

A fully adequate solution to Newcomb’s Problem (Nozick 1969) should reveal the source of its extraordinary elusiveness and persistent intractability. Recently, a few accounts have independently sought to meet this criterion of adequacy by exposing the underlying source of the problem’s profound puzzlement. Thus, Sorensen (1987), Slezak (1998), Priest (2002) and Maitzen and Wilson (2003) share the ‘no box’ view according to which the very idea that there is a right choice is misconceived since the problem is illformed or incoherent (...) 



Causal decision theory (CDT) cares only about the effects of a contemplated act, not its causes. The article constructs a case in which CDT consequently recommends a bet that the agent is certain to lose, rather than a bet that she is certain to win. CDT is plainly giving wrong advice in this case. It therefore stands refuted. 1 The Argument2 The Argument in More Detail2.1 The betting mechanism2.2 Soft determinism2.3 The content of P 2.4 The argument again3 The Descriptive (...) 

We consider the dispute between causal decision theorists and evidential decision theorists over Newcomblike problems. We introduce a framework relating causation and directed graphs developed by Spirtes et al. (1993) and evaluate several arguments in this context. We argue that much of the debate between the two camps is misplaced; the disputes turn on the distinction between conditioning on an event E as against conditioning on an event I which is an action to bring about E. We give the essential (...) 

The paper will show how one may rationalize oneboxing in Newcomb's problem and drinking the toxin in the Toxin puzzle within the confines of causal decision theory by ascending to socalled reflexive decision models which reflect how actions are caused by decision situations (beliefs, desires, and intentions) represented by ordinary unreflexive decision models. 

A oneboxer, Erica, and a twoboxer, Chloe, engage in a familiar debate. The debate begins with Erica asking Chloe: ‘If you’re so smart, then why ain’cha rich?’. As the debate progresses, each gets clearer about what connection they see between rational choice and long run riches. Erica says: long run riches give evidence about rationality, so long as the long run is one on which you face the same choice, and choose the same way, over and over again. Chloe objects (...) 

This paper explores the possibility that causal decision theory can be formulated in terms of probabilities of conditionals. It is argued that a generalized Stalnaker semantics in combination with an underlying branching time structure not only provides the basis for a plausible account of the semantics of indicative conditionals, but also that the resulting conditionals have properties that make them wellsuited as a basis for formulating causal decision theory. Decision theory (at least if we omit the frills) is not an (...) 





The puzzle of the absentminded driver combines an unstable decision problem with a version of the Sleeping Beauty problem. Its analysis depends on the choice between “halfing” and “thirding” as well as that between “evidential” and “causal” decision theory. I show that all four combinations lead to interestingly different solutions, and draw some general lessons about the formulation of causal decision theory, the interpretation of mixed strategies and the connection between rational credence and objective chance. 

Fundamental physics makes no clear use of causal notions; it uses laws that operate in relevant respects in both temporal directions and that relate whole systems across times. But by relating causation to evidence, we can explain how causation fits in to a physical picture of the world and explain its temporal asymmetry. This paper takes up a deliberative approach to causation, according to which causal relations correspond to the evidential relations we need when we decide on one thing in (...) 

In this paper I explore a version of standard (expected utility) decision theory in which the probability parameter is interpreted as an objective chance believed by agents to obtain and values of this parameter are fixed by indicative conditionals linking possible actions with possible outcomes. After reviewing some recent developments centering on the commoncause counterexamples to the standard approach, I introduce and briefly discuss the key notions in my own approach. (This approach has essentially the same results as the causal (...) 

Handbook of the History of Logic, vol. 10, eds. Dov Gabbay, Stephan Hartmann, and John Woods, forthcoming. 

We pose and resolve several vexing decision theoretic puzzles. Some are variants of existing puzzles, such as 'Trumped' (Arntzenius and McCarthy 1997), 'Rouble trouble' (Arntzenius and Barrett 1999), 'The airtight Dutch book' (McGee 1999), and 'The two envelopes puzzle' (Broome 1995). Others are new. A unified resolution of the puzzles shows that Dutch book arguments have no force in infinite cases. It thereby provides evidence that reasonable utility functions may be unbounded and that reasonable credence functions need not be countably (...) 