Causal Decision Theory and Decision Instability

Journal of Philosophy 116 (5):263-277 (2019)
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Abstract

The problem of the man who met death in Damascus appeared in the infancy of the theory of rational choice known as causal decision theory. A straightforward, unadorned version of causal decision theory is presented here and applied, along with Brian Skyrms’ deliberation dynamics, to Death in Damascus and similar problems. Decision instability is a fascinating topic, but not a source of difficulty for causal decision theory. Andy Egan’s purported counterexample to causal decision theory, Murder Lesion, is considered; a simple response shows how Murder Lesion and similar examples fail to be counterexamples, and clarifies the use of the unadorned theory in problems of decision instability. I compare unadorned causal decision theory to previous treatments by Frank Arntzenius and by Jim Joyce, and recommend a well-founded heuristic that all three accounts can endorse. Whatever course deliberation takes, causal decision theory is consistently a good guide to rational action.

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Brad Armendt
Arizona State University

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