Expected Comparative Utility Theory: A New Theory of Rational Choice

Philosophical Forum 49 (1):19-37 (2018)
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This paper proposes a new theory of rational choice, Expected Comparative Utility (ECU) Theory. It is first argued that for any decision option, a, and any state of the world, G, the measure of the choiceworthiness of a in G is the comparative utility of a in G – that is, the difference in utility, in G, between a and whichever alternative to a carries the greatest utility in G. On the basis of this principle, it is then argued, roughly speaking, that an agent should rank her decision options (in terms of how choiceworthy they are) according to their expected comparative utility. For any decision option, a, the expected comparative utility of a is the probability-weighted sum of the comparative utilities of a across the different possible states of the world. It is lastly demonstrated that in a number of decision cases, ECU Theory delivers different verdicts from those of standard decision theory.
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