Tiny Probabilities of Vast Value

Dissertation, Oxford University (2022)
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The topic of this thesis is how we should treat tiny probabilities of vast value. This thesis consists of six independent papers. Chapter 1 discusses the idea that utilities are bounded. It shows that bounded decision theories prescribe prospects that are better for no one and worse for some if combined with an additive axiology. Chapter 2, in turn, points out that standard axiomatizations of Expected Utility Theory violate dominance in cases that involve possible states of zero probability. Chapters 3–6 discuss the idea that we should ignore tiny probabilities in practical decision-making. Chapter 3 argues that discounting small probabilities solves the ‘Intrapersonal Addition Paradox’ and thus helps avoid the Repugnant Conclusion. Chapter 4 explores what the most plausible version of this view might look like and what problems the different versions have. Chapter 5 focuses on one type of problem, namely, money pumps. The Independence Money Pump, in particular, presents a difficult challenge for those who wish to discount small probabilities. Finally, Chapter 6 discusses the implications of discounting small probabilities for the value of the far future.

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Petra Kosonen
University of Texas at Austin


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