Counterfactual Decision Theory

Mind 132 (527):730-761 (2023)
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Abstract

I defend counterfactual decision theory, which says that you should evaluate an action in terms of which outcomes would likely obtain were you to perform it. Counterfactual decision theory has traditionally been subsumed under causal decision theory as a particular formulation of the latter. This is a mistake. Counterfactual decision theory is importantly different from, and superior to, causal decision theory, properly so called. Causation and counterfactuals come apart in three kinds of cases. In cases of overdetermination, an action can cause a good outcome without the latter counterfactually depending on the former. In cases of constitution, an action can constitute a good outcome rather than causing it. And in cases of determinism, either the laws or the past counterfactually depend on your action, even though your action cannot cause the laws or the past to be different. In each of these cases, it is counterfactual decision theory which gives the right verdict, and for the right reasons.

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Brian Hedden
Australian National University

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