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H. Orri Stefansson
Stockholm University
  1. Belief Revision for Growing Awareness.Katie Steele & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2021 - Mind 130 (520):1207–1232.
    The Bayesian maxim for rational learning could be described as conservative change from one probabilistic belief or credence function to another in response to newinformation. Roughly: ‘Hold fixed any credences that are not directly affected by the learning experience.’ This is precisely articulated for the case when we learn that some proposition that we had previously entertained is indeed true (the rule of conditionalisation). But can this conservative-change maxim be extended to revising one’s credences in response to entertaining propositions or (...)
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  2. Beyond Uncertainty: Reasoning with Unknown Possibilities.Katie Steele & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    The main aim of this book is to introduce the topic of limited awareness, and changes in awareness, to those interested in the philosophy of decision-making and uncertain reasoning. (This is for the series Elements of Decision Theory published by Cambridge University Press and edited by Martin Peterson).
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  3. What Should We Agree on About the Repugnant Conclusion?Stephane Zuber, Nikhil Venkatesh, Torbjörn Tännsjö, Christian Tarsney, H. Orri Stefánsson, Katie Steele, Dean Spears, Jeff Sebo, Marcus Pivato, Toby Ord, Yew-Kwang Ng, Michal Masny, William MacAskill, Nicholas Lawson, Kevin Kuruc, Michelle Hutchinson, Johan E. Gustafsson, Hilary Greaves, Lisa Forsberg, Marc Fleurbaey, Diane Coffey, Susumu Cato, Clinton Castro, Tim Campbell, Mark Budolfson, John Broome, Alexander Berger, Nick Beckstead & Geir B. Asheim - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (4):379-383.
    The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.
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  4. Ambiguity Aversion Behind the Veil of Ignorance.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2021 - Synthese 198 (7):6159-6182.
    The veil of ignorance argument was used by John C. Harsanyi to defend Utilitarianism and by John Rawls to defend the absolute priority of the worst off. In a recent paper, Lara Buchak revives the veil of ignorance argument, and uses it to defend an intermediate position between Harsanyi's and Rawls' that she calls Relative Prioritarianism. None of these authors explore the implications of allowing that agent's behind the veil are averse to ambiguity. Allowing for aversion to ambiguity---which is both (...)
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  5. Counterfactual Skepticism and Multidimensional Semantics.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2018 - Erkenntnis 83 (5):875-898.
    It has recently been argued that indeterminacy and indeterminism make most ordinary counterfactuals false. I argue that a plausible way to avoid such counterfactual skepticism is to postulate the existence of primitive modal facts that serve as truth-makers for counterfactual claims. Moreover, I defend a new theory of ‘might’ counterfactuals, and develop assertability and knowledge criteria to suit such unobservable ‘counterfacts’.
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  6. Counterfactual Desirability.Richard Bradley & H. Orri Stefansson - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2):485-533.
    The desirability of what actually occurs is often influenced by what could have been. Preferences based on such value dependencies between actual and counterfactual outcomes generate a class of problems for orthodox decision theory, the best-known perhaps being the so-called Allais Paradox. In this paper we solve these problems by extending Richard Jeffrey's decision theory to counterfactual prospects, using a multidimensional possible-world semantics for conditionals, and showing that preferences that are sensitive to counterfactual considerations can still be desirability maximising. We (...)
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  7. Population Ethics Under Risk.Gustaf Arrhenius & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    Population axiology concerns how to evaluate populations in terms of their moral goodness, that is, how to order populations by the relations “is better than” and “is as good as”. The task has been to find an adequate theory about the moral value of states of affairs where the number of people, the quality of their lives, and their identities may vary. So far, this field has largely ignored issues about uncertainty and the conditions that have been discussed mostly pertain (...)
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  8. Additively-Separable and Rank-Discounted Variable-Population Social Welfare Functions: A Characterization.Dean Spears & H. Orri Stefansson - 2021 - Economic Letters 203:1-3.
    Economic policy evaluations require social welfare functions for variable-size populations. Two important candidates are critical-level generalized utilitarianism (CLGU) and rank-discounted critical-level generalized utilitarianism, which was recently characterized by Asheim and Zuber (2014) (AZ). AZ introduce a novel axiom, existence of egalitarian equivalence (EEE). First, we show that, under some uncontroversial criteria for a plausible social welfare relation, EEE suffices to rule out the Repugnant Conclusion of population ethics (without AZ’s other novel axioms). Second, we provide a new characterization of CLGU: (...)
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  9. On the Limits of the Precautionary Principle.H. Orri Stefansson - 2019 - Risk Analysis 39 (6):1204-1222.
    The Precautionary Principle (PP) is an influential principle of risk management. It has been widely introduced into environmental legislation, and it plays an important role in most international environmental agreements. Yet, there is little consensus on precisely how to understand and formulate the principle. In this paper I prove some impossibility results for two plausible formulations of the PP as a decision-rule. These results illustrate the difficulty in making the PP consistent with the acceptance of any trade-offs between catastrophic risks (...)
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  10. Transformative Experience, Awareness Growth and the Limits of Rational Planning.Katie Steele & H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science:1-10.
    Laurie Paul (2014, 2015) argues that, when it comes to many of your most significant life-changing decisions, the principles of rational choice are silent. That is because, in these cases, you anticipate that one of your choice options would yield a transformative experience. We argue that the best way to make sense of transformative decisions is to see them as ones in which you anticipate awareness growth. You do not merely lack knowledge about which possible outcome will arise from a (...)
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  11. Should I Offset or Should I Do More Good?H. Orri Stefansson - forthcoming - Ethics, Policy and Environment.
    Offsetting is a very ineffective way to do good. Offsetting your lifetime emissions may increase aggregated life expectancy by at most seven years, while giving the amount it costs to offset your lifetime emissions to a malaria charity saves in expectation the life of at least one child. Is there any moral reason to offset rather than giving to some charity that does good so much more effectively? There might be such a reason if your offsetting compensated or somehow benefitted (...)
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  12. Is risk aversion irrational? Examining the “fallacy” of large numbers.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2020 - Synthese 197 (10):4425-4437.
    A moderately risk averse person may turn down a 50/50 gamble that either results in her winning $200 or losing $100. Such behaviour seems rational if, for instance, the pain of losing $100 is felt more strongly than the joy of winning $200. The aim of this paper is to examine an influential argument that some have interpreted as showing that such moderate risk aversion is irrational. After presenting an axiomatic argument that I take to be the strongest case for (...)
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  13. Catastrophic Risk.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (11):1-11.
    Catastrophic risk raises questions that are not only of practical importance, but also of great philosophical interest, such as how to define catastrophe and what distinguishes catastrophic outcomes from non-catastrophic ones. Catastrophic risk also raises questions about how to rationally respond to such risks. How to rationally respond arguably partly depends on the severity of the uncertainty, for instance, whether quantitative probabilistic information is available, or whether only comparative likelihood information is available, or neither type of information. Finally, catastrophic risk (...)
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    The Tragedy of the Risk Averse.H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-14.
    Those who are risk averse with respect to money, and thus turn down some gambles with positive monetary expectations, are nevertheless often willing to accept bundles involving multiple such gambles. Therefore, it might seem that such people should become more willing to accept a risky but favourable gamble if they put it in context with the collection of gambles that they predict they will be faced with in the future. However, it turns out that when a risk averse person adopts (...)
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  15. Calibration Dilemmas in the Ethics of Distribution.Jacob M. Nebel & H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-32.
    This paper presents a new kind of problem in the ethics of distribution. The problem takes the form of several “calibration dilemmas,” in which intuitively reasonable aversion to small-stakes inequalities requires leading theories of distribution to recommend intuitively unreasonable aversion to large-stakes inequalities. We first lay out a series of such dilemmas for prioritarian theories. We then consider a widely endorsed family of egalitarian views and show that they are subject to even more forceful calibration dilemmas than prioritarian theories. Finally, (...)
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  16. Radical Interpretation and Decision Theory.Anandi Hattiangadi & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6473-6494.
    This paper takes issue with an influential interpretationist argument for physicalism about intentionality based on the possibility of radical interpretation. The interpretationist defends the physicalist thesis that the intentional truths supervene on the physical truths by arguing that it is possible for a radical interpreter, who knows all of the physical truths, to work out the intentional truths about what an arbitrary agent believes, desires, and means without recourse to any further empirical information. One of the most compelling arguments for (...)
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  17. The Economics and Philosophy of Risk.H. Orri Stefansson - 2021 - In Conrad Heilmann & Julian Reiss (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Economics. Routledge.
    Neoclassical economists use expected utility theory to explain, predict, and prescribe choices under risk, that is, choices where the decision-maker knows---or at least deems suitable to act as if she knew---the relevant probabilities. Expected utility theory has been subject to both empirical and conceptual criticism. This chapter reviews expected utility theory and the main criticism it has faced. It ends with a brief discussion of subjective expected utility theory, which is the theory neoclassical economists use to explain, predict, and prescribe (...)
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  18. Continuity and Catastrophic Risk.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):266-274.
    Suppose that a decision-maker's aim, under certainty, is to maximise some continuous value, such as lifetime income or continuous social welfare. Can such a decision-maker rationally satisfy what has been called "continuity for easy cases" while at the same time satisfying what seems to be a widespread intuition against the full-blown continuity axiom of expected utility theory? In this note I argue that the answer is "no": given transitivity and a weak trade-off principle, continuity for easy cases violates the anti-continuity (...)
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  19. Calibrating Variable-Value Population Ethics.Dean Spears & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    Variable-Value axiologies propose solutions to the challenges of population ethics. These views avoid Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion, while satisfying some weak instances of the Mere Addition principle (for example, at small population sizes). We apply calibration methods to Variable-Value views while assuming: first, some very weak instances of Mere Addition, and, second, some plausible empirical assumptions about the size and welfare of the intertemporal world population. We find that Variable-Value views imply conclusions that should seem repugnant to anyone who opposes Total (...)
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