Unspecific Evidence and Normative Theories of Decision

Episteme:1-23 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

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 if evidence can be unspecific, then an alleged counterexample to causal decision theory fails. This implies that what theory of decision we think is true may depend on our opinions regarding the nature of evidence. Even when we are theorizing about subjective theories of rationality, we cannot set aside questions about the objective nature of evidence.

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Rhys Borchert
University of Arizona

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