Decision theory and folk psychology both purport to represent the same phenomena: our belief-like and desire- and preference-like states. They also purport to do the same work with these representations: explain and predict our actions. But they do so with different sets of concepts. There's much at stake in whether one of these two sets of concepts can be accounted for with the other. Without such an account, we'd have two competing representations and systems of prediction and explanation, a dubious (...) dualism. Folk psychology structures our daily lives and has proven fruitful in the study of mind and ethics, while decision theory is pervasive in various disciplines, including the quantitative social sciences, especially economics, and philosophy. My interest is in accounting for folk psychology with decision theory -- in particular, for believe and wanting, which decision theory omits. Many have attempted this task for belief. (The Lockean Thesis says that there is such an account.) I take up the parallel task for wanting, which has received far less attention. I propose necessary and sufficient conditions, stated in terms of decision theory, for when you're truly said to want; I give an analogue of the Lockean Thesis for wanting. My account is an alternative to orthodox accounts that link wanting to preference (e.g. Stalnaker (1984), Lewis (1986)), which I argue are false. I argue further that want ascriptions are context-sensitive. My account explains this context-sensitivity, makes sense of conflicting desires, and accommodates phenomena that motivate traditional theses on which 'want' has multiple senses (e.g. all-things-considered vs. pro tanto). (shrink)
I formulate a principle of preference, which I call the Guaranteed Principle. I argue that the preferences of rational agents satisfy the Guaranteed Principle, that the preferences of agents who embody causal decision theory do not, and hence that causal decision theory is false.
The dispute in philosophical decision theory between causalists and evidentialists remains unsettled. Many are attracted to the causal view’s endorsement of a species of dominance reasoning, and to the intuitive verdicts it gets on a range of cases with the structure of the infamous Newcomb’s Problem. But it also faces a rising wave of purported counterexamples and theoretical challenges. In this paper I will describe a novel decision theory which saves what is appealing about the causal view while avoiding its (...) most worrying objections, and which promises to generalize to solve a set of related problems in other normative domains. (shrink)
In Richard Bradley's book, Decision Theory with a Human Face (2017), we have selected two themes for discussion. The first is the Bolker-Jeffrey (BJ) theory of decision, which the book uses throughout as a tool to reorganize the whole field of decision theory, and in particular to evaluate the extent to which expected utility (EU) theories may be normatively too demanding. The second theme is the redefinition strategy that can be used to defend EU theories against the Allais and Ellsberg (...) paradoxes, a strategy that the book by and large endorses, and even develops in an original way concerning the Ellsberg paradox. We argue that the BJ theory is too specific to fulfil Bradley’s foundational project and that the redefinition strategy fails in both the Allais and Ellsberg cases. Although we share Bradley’s conclusion that EU theories do not state universal rationality requirements, we reach it not by a comparison with BJ theory, but by a comparison with the non-EU theories that the paradoxes have heuristically suggested. (shrink)
Don't form beliefs on the basis of coin flips or random guesses. More generally, don't take belief gambles: if a proposition is no more likely to be true than false given your total body of evidence, don't go ahead and believe that proposition. Few would deny this seemingly innocuous piece of epistemic advice. But what, exactly, is wrong with taking belief gambles? Philosophers have debated versions of this question at least since the classic dispute between William Clifford and William James (...) near the end of the 19th century. Here I reassess the normative standing of belief gambles from the perspective of epistemic decision theory. The main lesson of the paper is a negative one: it turns out that we need to make some surprisingly strong and hard-to-motivate assumptions to establish a general norm against belief gambles within a decision-theoretic framework. I take this to pose a dilemma for epistemic decision theory: it forces us to either (i) make seemingly unmotivated assumptions to secure a norm against belief gambles, or (ii) concede that belief gambles can be rational after all. (shrink)
The problem of the man who met death in Damascus appeared in the infancy of the theory of rational choice known as causal decision theory. A straightforward, unadorned version of causal decision theory is presented here and applied, along with Brian Skyrms’ deliberation dynamics, to Death in Damascus and similar problems. Decision instability is a fascinating topic, but not a source of difficulty for causal decision theory. Andy Egan’s purported counterexample to causal decision theory, Murder Lesion, is considered; a simple (...) response shows how Murder Lesion and similar examples fail to be counterexamples, and clarifies the use of the unadorned theory in problems of decision instability. I compare unadorned causal decision theory to previous treatments by Frank Arntzenius and by Jim Joyce, and recommend a well-founded heuristic that all three accounts can endorse. Whatever course deliberation takes, causal decision theory is consistently a good guide to rational action. (shrink)
Decision theory has at its core a set of mathematical theorems that connect rational preferences to functions with certain structural properties. The components of these theorems, as well as their bearing on questions surrounding rationality, can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Philosophy’s current interest in decision theory represents a convergence of two very different lines of thought, one concerned with the question of how one ought to act, and the other concerned with the question of what action consists (...) in and what it reveals about the actor’s mental states. As a result, the theory has come to have two different uses in philosophy, which we might call the normative use and the interpretive use. It also has a related use that is largely within the domain of psychology, the descriptive use. This essay examines the historical development of decision theory and its uses; the relationship between the norm of decision theory and the notion of rationality; and the interdependence of the uses of decision theory. (shrink)
Orthodox decision theory gives no advice to agents who hold two goods to be incommensurate in value because such agents will have incomplete preferences. According to standard treatments, rationality requires complete preferences, so such agents are irrational. Experience shows, however, that incomplete preferences are ubiquitous in ordinary life. In this paper, we aim to do two things: (1) show that there is a good case for revising decision theory so as to allow it to apply non-vacuously to agents with incomplete (...) preferences, and (2) to identify one substantive criterion that any such non-standard decision theory must obey. Our criterion, Competitiveness, is a weaker version of a dominance principle. Despite its modesty, Competitiveness is incompatible with prospectism, a recently developed decision theory for agents with incomplete preferences. We spend the final part of the paper showing why Competitiveness should be retained, and prospectism rejected. (shrink)
The essay presents a novel counterexample to Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Its interest is that it generates a case in which CDT violates the very principles that motivated it in the first place. The essay argues that the objection applies to all extant formulations of CDT and that the only way out for that theory is a modification of it that entails incompatibilism. The essay invites the reader to find this consequence of CDT a reason to reject it.
As stochastic independence is essential to the mathematical development of probability theory, it seems that any foundational work on probability should be able to account for this property. Bayesian decision theory appears to be wanting in this respect. Savage’s postulates on preferences under uncertainty entail a subjective expected utility representation, and this asserts only the existence and uniqueness of a subjective probability measure, regardless of its properties. What is missing is a preference condition corresponding to stochastic independence. To fill this (...) significant gap, the article axiomatizes Bayesian decision theory afresh and proves several representation theorems in this novel framework. (shrink)
Stochastic independence has a complex status in probability theory. It is not part of the definition of a probability measure, but it is nonetheless an essential property for the mathematical development of this theory. Bayesian decision theorists such as Savage can be criticized for being silent about stochastic independence. From their current preference axioms, they can derive no more than the definitional properties of a probability measure. In a new framework of twofold uncertainty, we introduce preference axioms that entail not (...) only these definitional properties, but also the stochastic independence of the two sources of uncertainty. This goes some way towards filling a curious lacuna in Bayesian decision theory. (shrink)
The paper argues that on three out of eight possible hypotheses about the EPR experiment we can construct novel and realistic decision problems on which (a) Causal Decision Theory and Evidential Decision Theory conflict (b) Causal Decision Theory and the EPR statistics conflict. We infer that anyone who fully accepts any of these three hypotheses has strong reasons to reject Causal Decision Theory. Finally, we extend the original construction to show that anyone who gives any of the three hypotheses any (...) non-zero credence has strong reasons to reject Causal Decision Theory. However, we concede that no version of the Many Worlds Interpretation (Vaidman, in Zalta, E.N. (ed.), Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy 2014) gives rise to the conflicts that we point out. (shrink)
Decision theory is concerned with how agents should act when the consequences of their actions are uncertain. The central principle of contemporary decision theory is that the rational choice is the choice that maximizes subjective expected utility. This entry explains what this means, and discusses the philosophical motivations and consequences of the theory. The entry will consider some of the main problems and paradoxes that decision theory faces, and some of responses that can be given. Finally the entry will briefly (...) consider how decision theory applies to choices involving more than one agent. (shrink)
The primary aim of this paper is the presentation of a foundation for causal decision theory. This is worth doing because causal decision theory (CDT) is philosophically the most adequate rational decision theory now available. I will not defend that claim here by elaborate comparison of the theory with all its competitors, but by providing the foundation. This puts the theory on an equal footing with competitors for which foundations have already been given. It turns out that it will also (...) produce a reply to the most serious objections made so far against CDT and against the particular version of CDT I will defend. (shrink)
Andy Egan has presented a dilemma for decision theory. As is well known, Newcomb cases appear to undermine the case for evidential decision theory. However, Egan has come up with a new scenario which poses difficulties for causal decision theory. I offer a simple solution to this dilemma in terms of a modified EDT. I propose an epistemological test: take some feature which is relevant to your evaluation of the scenarios under consideration, evidentially correlated with the actions under consideration albeit, (...) causally independent of them. Hold this feature fixed as a hypothesis. The test shows that, in Newcomb cases, EDT would mislead the agent. Where the test shows EDT to be misleading, I propose to use fictive conditional credences in the EDT-formula under the constraint that they are set to equal values. I then discuss Huw Price’s defence of EDT as an alternative to my diagnosis. I argue that my solution also applies if one accepts the main premisses of Price’s argument. I close with applying my solution to Nozick’s original Newcomb problem. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the decision-theoretic status of risk attitudes. I start by providing evidence showing that the risk attitude concepts do not play a major role in the axiomatic analysis of the classic models of decision-making under risk. This can be interpreted as reflecting the neutrality of these models between the possible risk attitudes. My central claim, however, is that such neutrality needs to be qualified and the axiomatic relevance of risk attitudes needs to be re-evaluated accordingly. Specifically, (...) I highlight the importance of the conditional variation and the strengthening of risk attitudes, and I explain why they establish the axiomatic significance of the risk attitude concepts. I also present several questions for future research regarding the strengthening of risk attitudes. (shrink)
The ontology of decision theory has been subject to considerable debate in the past, and discussion of just how we ought to view decision problems has revealed more than one interesting problem, as well as suggested some novel modifications of classical decision theory. In this paper it will be argued that Bayesian, or evidential, decision-theoretic characterizations of decision situations fail to adequately account for knowledge concerning the causal connections between acts, states, and outcomes in decision situations, and so they are (...) incomplete. Second, it will be argues that when we attempt to incorporate the knowledge of such causal connections into Bayesian decision theory, a substantial technical problem arises for which there is no currently available solution that does not suffer from some damning objection or other. From a broader perspective, this then throws into question the use of decision theory as a model of human or machine planning. (shrink)
Decision theory has had a long-standing history in the behavioural and social sciences as a tool for constructing good approximations of human behaviour. Yet as artificially intelligent systems (AIs) grow in intellectual capacity and eventually outpace humans, decision theory becomes evermore important as a model of AI behaviour. What sort of decision procedure might an AI employ? In this work, I propose that policy-based causal decision theory (PCDT), which places a primacy on the decision-relevance of predictors and simulations of agent (...) behaviour, may be such a procedure. I compare this account to the recently-developed functional decision theory (FDT), which is motivated by similar concerns. I also address potentially counterintuitive features of PCDT, such as its refusal to condition on observations made at certain times. (shrink)
Standard decision theory, or rational choice theory, is often interpreted to be a theory of instrumental rationality. This dissertation argues, however, that the core requirements of orthodox decision theory cannot be defended as general requirements of instrumental rationality. Instead, I argue that these requirements can only be instrumentally justified to agents who have a desire to have choice dispositions that are stable over time and across different choice contexts. Past attempts at making instrumentalist arguments for the core requirements of decision (...) theory fail due to a pervasive assumption in decision theory, namely the assumption that the agent’s preferences over the objects of choice – be it outcomes or uncertain prospects – form the standard of instrumental rationality against which the agent’s actions are evaluated. I argue that we should instead take more basic desires to be the standard of instrumental rationality. But unless agents have a desire to have stable choice dispositions, according to this standard, instrumental rationality turns out to be more permissive than orthodox decision theory. (shrink)
The principle that rational agents should maximize expected utility or choiceworthiness is intuitively plausible in many ordinary cases of decision-making under uncertainty. But it is less plausible in cases of extreme, low-probability risk (like Pascal's Mugging), and intolerably paradoxical in cases like the St. Petersburg and Pasadena games. In this paper I show that, under certain conditions, stochastic dominance reasoning can capture most of the plausible implications of expectational reasoning while avoiding most of its pitfalls. Specifically, given sufficient background uncertainty (...) about the choiceworthiness of one's options, many expectation-maximizing gambles that do not stochastically dominate their alternatives "in a vacuum" become stochastically dominant in virtue of that background uncertainty. But, even under these conditions, stochastic dominance will not require agents to accept options whose expectational superiority depends on sufficiently small probabilities of extreme payoffs. The sort of background uncertainty on which these results depend looks unavoidable for any agent who measures the choiceworthiness of her options in part by the total amount of value in the resulting world. At least for such agents, then, stochastic dominance offers a plausible general principle of choice under uncertainty that can explain more of the apparent rational constraints on such choices than has previously been recognized. (shrink)
In his classic book “the Foundations of Statistics” Savage developed a formal system of rational decision making. The system is based on (i) a set of possible states of the world, (ii) a set of consequences, (iii) a set of acts, which are functions from states to consequences, and (iv) a preference relation over the acts, which represents the preferences of an idealized rational agent. The goal and the culmination of the enterprise is a representation theorem: Any preference relation that (...) satisfies certain arguably acceptable postulates determines a (finitely additive) probability distribution over the states and a utility assignment to the consequences, such that the preferences among acts are determined by their expected utilities. Additional problematic assumptions are however required in Savage's proofs. First, there is a Boolean algebra of events (sets of states) which determines the richness of the set of acts. The probabilities are assigned to members of this algebra. Savage's proof requires that this be a σ-algebra (i.e., closed under infinite countable unions and intersections), which makes for an extremely rich preference relation. On Savage's view we should not require subjective probabilities to be σ-additive. He therefore finds the insistence on a σ-algebra peculiar and is unhappy with it. But he sees no way of avoiding it. Second, the assignment of utilities requires the constant act assumption: for every consequence there is a constant act, which produces that consequence in every state. This assumption is known to be highly counterintuitive. The present work contains two mathematical results. The first, and the more difficult one, shows that the σ-algebra assumption can be dropped. The second states that, as long as utilities are assigned to finite gambles only, the constant act assumption can be replaced by the more plausible and much weaker assumption that there are at least two non-equivalent constant acts. The second result also employs a novel way of deriving utilities in Savage-style systems -- without appealing to von Neumann-Morgenstern lotteries. The paper discusses the notion of “idealized agent" that underlies Savage's approach, and argues that the simplified system, which is adequate for all the actual purposes for which the system is designed, involves a more realistic notion of an idealized agent. (shrink)
to appear in Lambert, E. and J. Schwenkler (eds.) Transformative Experience (OUP) -/- L. A. Paul (2014, 2015) argues that the possibility of epistemically transformative experiences poses serious and novel problems for the orthodox theory of rational choice, namely, expected utility theory — I call her argument the Utility Ignorance Objection. In a pair of earlier papers, I responded to Paul’s challenge (Pettigrew 2015, 2016), and a number of other philosophers have responded in similar ways (Dougherty, et al. 2015, Harman (...) 2015) — I call our argument the Fine-Graining Response. Paul has her own reply to this response, which we might call the Authenticity Reply. But Sarah Moss has recently offered an alternative reply to the Fine-Graining Response on Paul’s behalf (Moss 2017) — we’ll call it the No Knowledge Reply. This appeals to the knowledge norm of action, together with Moss’ novel and intriguing account of probabilistic knowledge. In this paper, I consider Moss’ reply and argue that it fails. I argue first that it fails as a reply made on Paul’s behalf, since it forces us to abandon many of the features of Paul’s challenge that make it distinctive and with which Paul herself is particularly concerned. Then I argue that it fails as a reply independent of its fidelity to Paul’s intentions. (shrink)
Pascal’s Wager does not exist in a Platonic world of possible gods, abstract probabilities and arbitrary payoffs. Real decision-makers, such as Pascal’s “man of the world” of 1660, face a range of religious options they take to be serious, with fixed probabilities grounded in their evidence, and with utilities that are fixed quantities in actual minds. The many ingenious objections to the Wager dreamed up by philosophers do not apply in such a real decision matrix. In the situation Pascal addresses, (...) the Wager is a good bet. In the situation of a modern Western intellectual, the reasoning of the Wager is still powerful, though the range of options and the actions indicated are not the same as in Pascal’s day. (shrink)
Causal decision theory defines a rational action as the one that tends to cause the best outcomes. If we adopt counterfactual or probabilistic theories of causation, then we may face problems in overdetermination cases. Do such problems affect Causal decision theory? The aim of this work is to show that the concept of causation that has been fundamental in all versions of causal decision theory is not the most intuitive one. Since overdetermination poses problems for a counterfactual theory of causation, (...) one can think that a version of causal decision theory based on counterfactual dependence may also be vulnerable to such scenarios. However, only when an intuitive, not analyzed notion of causation is presupposed as a ground for a more plausible version of causal decision theory, overdetermination turns problematic. The first interesting consequence of this is that there are more reasons to dismiss traditional theories of causation (and to accept others). The second is to confirm that traditional causal decision theory is not based on our intuitive concept of the causal relation. (shrink)
Representation theorems are often taken to provide the foundations for decision theory. First, they are taken to characterize degrees of belief and utilities. Second, they are taken to justify two fundamental rules of rationality: that we should have probabilistic degrees of belief and that we should act as expected utility maximizers. We argue that representation theorems cannot serve either of these foundational purposes, and that recent attempts to defend the foundational importance of representation theorems are unsuccessful. As a result, we (...) should reject these claims, and lay the foundations of decision theory on firmer ground. (shrink)
This essay makes the case for, in the phrase of Angelika Kratzer, packing the fruits of the study of rational decision-making into our semantics for deontic modals—specifically, for parametrizing the truth-condition of a deontic modal to things like decision problems and decision theories. Then it knocks it down. While the fundamental relation of the semantic theory must relate deontic modals to things like decision problems and theories, this semantic relation cannot be intelligibly understood as representing the conditions under which a (...) deontic modal is true. Rather it represents the conditions under which it is accepted by a semantically competent agent. This in turn motivates a reorientation of the whole of semantic theorizing, away from the truth-conditional paradigm, toward a form of Expressivism. (shrink)
Epistemic decision theory (EDT) employs the mathematical tools of rational choice theory to justify epistemic norms, including probabilism, conditionalization, and the Principal Principle, among others. Practitioners of EDT endorse two theses: (1) epistemic value is distinct from subjective preference, and (2) belief and epistemic value can be numerically quantified. We argue the first thesis, which we call epistemic puritanism, undermines the second.
In recent years, some epistemologists have argued that practical factors can make the difference between knowledge and mere true belief. While proponents of this pragmatic thesis have proposed necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge, it is striking that they have failed to address Gettier cases. As a result, the proposed analyses of knowledge are either lacking explanatory power or susceptible to counterexamples. Gettier cases are also worth reflecting on because they raise foundational questions for the pragmatist. Underlying these challenges is (...) the fact that pragmatic epistemologies not only rely upon normative theories of rational choice but also require externalist standards to rule out epistemic luck. Unfortunately, we lack adequate externalist theories of rational choice. In response, I address these foundational challenges by offering the outlines of an externalist decision theory. While this task is an ambitious one that I cannot hope to complete, I survey the outlines of a decision-theoretic framework on which a richer pragmatic epistemology can be developed. My hope is that this framework opens up new avenues of exploration for the pragmatic epistemologist. (shrink)
This paper explores the possibility that causal decision theory can be formulated in terms of probabilities of conditionals. It is argued that a generalized Stalnaker semantics in combination with an underlying branching time structure not only provides the basis for a plausible account of the semantics of indicative conditionals, but also that the resulting conditionals have properties that make them well-suited as a basis for formulating causal decision theory. Decision theory (at least if we omit the frills) is not an (...) esoteric science, however unfamiliar it may seem to an outsider. Rather it is a systematic exposition of the consequences of certain well-chosen platitudes about belief, desire, preference and choice. It is the very core of our common-sense theory of persons, dissected out and elegantly systematized. (David Lewis, Synthese 23:331–344, 1974, p. 337). A small distortion in the analysis of the conditional may create spurious problems with the analysis of other concepts. So if the facts about usage favor one among a number of subtly different theories, it may be important to determine which one it is. (Robert Stalnaker, A Defense of Conditional Excluded Middle, pp. 87–104, 1980, p. 87). (shrink)
This paper has as its topic two recent philosophical disputes. One of these disputes is internal to the project known as decision theory, and while by now familiar to many, may well seem to be of pressing concern only to specialists. It has been carried on over the last twenty years or so, but by now the two opposing camps are pretty well entrenched in their respective positions, and the situation appears to many observers (as well as to some of (...) the parties involved) to have reached a sort of stalemate. The second of these two disputes is, on the other hand, very much alive. While it has been framed in decision theoretic terms, it is definitely not a dispute internal to that enterprise. It is, rather, a debate about the very coherence of the notion of objective value, and as such touches on issues of central importance to, for example, meta–ethics and moral psychology. (shrink)
A book chapter (about 4,000 words, plus references) on decision theory in moral philosophy, with particular attention to uses of decision theory in specifying the contents of moral principles (e.g., expected-value forms of act and rule utilitarianism), uses of decision theory in arguing in support of moral principles (e.g., the hypothetical-choice arguments of Harsanyi and Rawls), and attempts to derive morality from rationality (e.g., the views of Gauthier and McClennen).
This symposium in the overlap of philosophy and decision theory is described well by its title “Beliefs in Groups”. Each word in the title matters, with one intended ambiguity. The symposium is about beliefs rather than other attitudes such as preferences; these beliefs take the form of probabilities in the first three contributions, binary yes/no beliefs (‘judgments’) in the fourth contribution, and qualitative probabilities (‘probability grades’) in the fifth contribution. The beliefs occur in groups, which is ambiguous between beliefs of (...) groups as a whole and beliefs of group members. The five contributions – all of them interesting, we believe – address several aspects of this general theme. (shrink)
The paper re-expresses arguments against the normative validity of expected utility theory in Robin Pope (1983, 1991a, 1991b, 1985, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007). These concern the neglect of the evolving stages of knowledge ahead (stages of what the future will bring). Such evolution is fundamental to an experience of risk, yet not consistently incorporated even in axiomatised temporal versions of expected utility. Its neglect entails a disregard of emotional and financial effects on well-being before a particular risk is (...) resolved. These arguments are complemented with an analysis of the essential uniqueness property in the context of temporal and atemporal expected utility theory and a proof of the absence of a limit property natural in an axiomatised approach to temporal expected utility theory. Problems of the time structure of risk are investigated in a simple temporal framework restricted to a subclass of temporal lotteries in the sense of David Kreps and Evan Porteus (1978). This subclass is narrow but wide enough to discuss basic issues. It will be shown that there are serious objections against the modification of expected utility theory axiomatised by Kreps and Porteus (1978, 1979). By contrast the umbrella theory proffered by Pope that she has now termed SKAT, the Stages of Knowledge Ahead Theory, offers an epistemically consistent framework within which to construct particular models to deal with particular decision situations. A model by Caplin and Leahy (2001) will also be discussed and contrasted with the modelling within SKAT (Pope, Leopold and Leitner 2007). (shrink)
Rational agents face choices, even when taking seriously the possibility of determinism. Rational agents also follow the advice of Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Although many take these claims to be well-motivated, there is growing pressure to reject one of them, as CDT seems to go badly wrong in some deterministic cases. We argue that deterministic cases do not undermine a counterfactual model of rational deliberation, which is characteristic of CDT. Rather, they force us to distinguish between counterfactuals that are relevant (...) and ones that are irrelevant for the purposes of deliberation. We incorporate this distinction into decision theory to develop ‘Selective Causal Decision Theory’, which delivers the correct recommendations in deterministic cases while respecting the key motivations behind CDT. (shrink)
The standard formulation of Newcomb's problem compares evidential and causal conceptions of expected utility, with those maximizing evidential expected utility tending to end up far richer. Thus, in a world in which agents face Newcomb problems, the evidential decision theorist might ask the causal decision theorist: "if you're so smart, why ain’cha rich?” Ultimately, however, the expected riches of evidential decision theorists in Newcomb problems do not vindicate their theory, because their success does not generalize. Consider a theory that allows (...) the agents who employ it to end up rich in worlds containing Newcomb problems and continues to outperform in other cases. This type of theory, which I call a “success-first” decision theory, is motivated by the desire to draw a tighter connection between rationality and success, rather than to support any particular account of expected utility. The primary aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive justification of success-first decision theories as accounts of rational decision. I locate this justification in an experimental approach to decision theory supported by the aims of methodological naturalism. (shrink)
Taking the philosophical standpoint, this article compares the mathematical theory of individual decision-making with the folk psychology conception of action, desire and belief. It narrows down its topic by carrying the comparison vis-à-vis Savage's system and its technical concept of subjective probability, which is referred to the basic model of betting as in Ramsey. The argument is organized around three philosophical theses: (i) decision theory is nothing but folk psychology stated in formal language (Lewis), (ii) the former substantially improves on (...) the latter, but is unable to overcome its typical limitations, especially its failure to separate desire and belief empirically (Davidson), (iii) the former substantially improves on the latter, and through these innovations, overcomes some of the limitations. The aim of the article is to establish (iii) not only against the all too simple thesis (i), but also against the subtle thesis (ii). (shrink)
I present a solution to the epistemological or characterisation problem of induction. In part I, Bayesian Confirmation Theory (BCT) is discussed as a good contender for such a solution but with a fundamental explanatory gap (along with other well discussed problems); useful assigned probabilities like priors require substantive degrees of belief about the world. I assert that one does not have such substantive information about the world. Consequently, an explanation is needed for how one can be licensed to act as (...) if one has substantive information about the world when one does not. I sketch the outlines of a solution in part I, showing how it differs from others, with full details to follow in subsequent parts. The solution is pragmatic in sentiment (though differs in specifics to arguments from, for example, William James); the conceptions we use to guide our actions are and should be at least partly determined by preferences. This is cashed out in a reformulation of decision theory motivated by a non-reductive formulation of hypotheses and logic. A distinction emerges between initial assumptions--that can be non-dogmatic--and effective assumptions that can simultaneously be substantive. An explanation is provided for the plausibility arguments used to explain assigned probabilities in BCT. -/- In subsequent parts, logic is constructed from principles independent of language and mind. In particular, propositions are defined to not have form. Probabilities are logical and uniquely determined by assumptions. The problems considered fatal to logical probabilities--Goodman's `grue' problem and the uniqueness of priors problem are dissolved due to the particular formulation of logic used. Other problems such as the zero-prior problem are also solved. -/- A universal theory of (non-linguistic) meaning is developed. Problems with counterfactual conditionals are solved by developing concepts of abstractions and corresponding pictures that make up hypotheses. Spaces of hypotheses and the version of Bayes' theorem that utilises them emerge from first principles. -/- Theoretical virtues for hypotheses emerge from the theory. Explanatory force is explicated. The significance of effective assumptions is partly determined by combinatoric factors relating to the structure of hypotheses. I conjecture that this is the origin of simplicity. (shrink)
The goal of this essay is to explore "the highly contested nature of [decision-making through adopting] a historically comparative and interdisciplinary approach." Internalist history of game theory treats decision theory as a science of making choices to maximize expected gain. Game theory is applied to nuclear deterrence and military strategy, building markets and designing institutions, analyzing collective action, developing jurisprudence, and addressing crime and punishment. This essay draws on recent historiography of Cold War decision-making to draw into focus the constructive (...) aspects of decision theory to argue that the perceived need to avoid worst-case scenarios has instead contributed to a world in which the worst outcome is probabilistically assured to occur over the long duree timeframe. (shrink)
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