Decision, causality, and predetermination

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 107 (3):638-670 (2023)
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Evidential decision theory (EDT) says that the choiceworthiness of an option depends on its evidential connections to possible outcomes. Causal decision theory (CDT) holds that it depends on your beliefs about its causal connections. While Newcomb cases support CDT, Arif Ahmed has described examples that support EDT. A new account is needed to get all cases right. I argue that an option A's choiceworthiness is determined by the probability that a good outcome ensues at possible A‐worlds that match actuality in the facts causally unaffected by your decision (the “unaffected facts”). Moreover, you should evaluate A on the assumption that A is compossible with the unaffected facts. This view entails that you should use EDT when evaluating A on the assumption that the unaffected facts determine your action, but use CDT when assessing A on the opposite assumption. A's choiceworthiness equals a weighted average of these conditional assessments. The weights are determined by your beliefs about whether the unaffected fact determine your action. This account gets both Newcomb and Ahmed cases right. According to an influential view, whether you take the unaffected facts to determine your action can make a difference to whether you can regard yourself as free and the action as being under your control. While my account is neutral on this issue, it entails that whether you take the unaffected facts to determine your action is important in a different way: it matters to whether you should follow EDT or CDT.

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Boris Kment
Princeton University


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