Conditionals in causal decision theory

Synthese 190 (4):661-679 (2013)
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Abstract
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 well-suited as a basis for formulating causal decision theory. Decision theory (at least if we omit the frills) is not an esoteric science, however unfamiliar it may seem to an outsider. Rather it is a systematic exposition of the consequences of certain well-chosen platitudes about belief, desire, preference and choice. It is the very core of our common-sense theory of persons, dissected out and elegantly systematized. (David Lewis, Synthese 23:331–344, 1974, p. 337). A small distortion in the analysis of the conditional may create spurious problems with the analysis of other concepts. So if the facts about usage favor one among a number of subtly different theories, it may be important to determine which one it is. (Robert Stalnaker, A Defense of Conditional Excluded Middle, pp. 87–104, 1980, p. 87)
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Archival date: 2012-10-03
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2012-10-01

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