Betting against the Zen Monk: on preferences and partial belief

Synthese 198 (4):3733-3758 (2019)
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Abstract

According to the preference-centric approach to understanding partial belief, the connection between partial beliefs and preferences is key to understanding what partial beliefs are and how they’re measured. As Ramsey put it, the ‘degree of a belief is a causal property of it, which we can express vaguely as the extent to which we are prepared to act on it’ The Foundations of Mathematics and Other Logical Essays, Routledge, Oxon, pp 156–198, 1931). But this idea is not as popular as it once was. Nowadays, the preference-centric approach is frequently dismissed out-of-hand as behaviouristic, unpalatably anti-realist, and/or prone to devastating counterexamples. Cases like Eriksson and Hájek’s :183–213, 2007) preferenceless Zen monk and Christensen’s :356–376, 2001) other roles argument have suggested to many that any account of partial belief that ties them too closely to preferences is irretrievably flawed. In this paper I provide a defence of preference-centric accounts of partial belief.

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Edward J. R. Elliott
University of Leeds

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