Law-Abiding Causal Decision Theory

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (forthcoming)
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In this paper we discuss how Causal Decision Theory should be modified to handle a class of problematic cases involving deterministic laws. Causal Decision Theory, as it stands, is problematically biased against your endorsing deterministic propositions (for example it tells you to deny Newtonian physics, regardless of how confident you are of its truth). Our response is that this is not a problem for Causal Decision Theory per se, but arises because of the standard method for assessing the truth of certain counterfactuals. The truth of deterministic laws is `modally fragile' on the standard semantics for counterfactuals: if determinism is true and you were to do otherwise, the laws would be different. We provide two ways of avoiding this problem: 1) supplement the standard semantics for counterfactuals with impossible worlds, or 2) introduce rigid designators into the description of problematic decision situations. We argue that both of these approaches are well-motivated and can be readily incorporated into Lewisian Causal Decision Theory.

Author Profiles

Timothy Luke Williamson
Australian National University
Alexander Sandgren
Australian National University


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