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Summary Causal decision theory (CDT) is one of the most prominent decision-theoretic accounts of rational choice. Developed in response to the well known Newcomb's problem (as outlined in Nozick 1969), the core idea of CDT is that causal (or perhaps certain sorts of counterfactual) notions should play a key role in determining what decision is rational in a given case. This could be contrasted with the view defended by proponents of evidential decision theory, a rival decision theory, according to which evidential, rather than causal, notions should be at the core of our decision-theoretic accounts of choice.
Key works The first paper to discuss causal decision theory in detail was Gibbard & Harper 1978 but a good entry point to the literature on the topic is Lewis 1981, which presents the various versions of CDT that were being discussed at the time and explores the links between them. For a more in depth look at the theory, Joyce 1999 is a good choice. This book starts from the very basics and goes on to provide a detailed discussion of causal decision theory.
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  1. A. Ahmed (2013). Causal Decision Theory: A Counterexample. Philosophical Review 122 (2):289-306.
    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.
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  2. Arif Ahmed, Smokers and Psychos: Egan Cases Don't Work.
    Andy Egan's Smoking Lesion and Psycho Button cases are supposed to be counterexamples to Causal Decision Theory. This paper argues that they are not: more precisely, it argues that if CDT makes the right call in Newcomb's problem then it makes the right call in Egan cases too.
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  3. Arif Ahmed (2015). Infallibility in the Newcomb Problem. Erkenntnis 80 (2):261-273.
    It is intuitively attractive to think that it makes a difference in Newcomb’s problem whether or not the predictor is infallible, in the sense of being certainly actually correct. This paper argues that that view is irrational and manifests a well-documented cognitive illusion.
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  4. Arif Ahmed (2014). Causal Decision Theory and the Fixity of the Past. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (4):665-685.
    Causal decision theory (CDT) cares only about the effects of a contemplated act, not its causes. The article constructs a case in which CDT consequently recommends a bet that the agent is certain to lose, rather than a bet that she is certain to win. CDT is plainly giving wrong advice in this case. It therefore stands refuted. 1 The Argument2 The Argument in More Detail2.1 The betting mechanism2.2 Soft determinism2.3 The content of P 2.4 The argument again3 The Descriptive (...)
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  5. Arif Ahmed (2014). Dicing with Death. Analysis 74 (4):587-592.
    You should rather play hide-and-seek against someone who cannot predict where you hide than against someone who can, as the article illustrates in connection with a high-stakes example. Causal Decision Theory denies this. So Causal Decision Theory is false.
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  6. Arif Ahmed (2014). Evidence, Decision and Causality. Cambridge University Press.
    Most philosophers agree that causal knowledge is essential to decision-making: agents should choose from the available options those that probably cause the outcomes that they want. This book argues against this theory and in favour of evidential or Bayesian decision theory, which emphasises the symptomatic value of options over their causal role. It examines a variety of settings, including economic theory, quantum mechanics and philosophical thought-experiments, where causal knowledge seems to make a practical difference. The arguments make novel use of (...)
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  7. Arif Ahmed (2012). Push the Button. Philosophy of Science 79 (3):386-395.
    Opponents of Causal Decision Theory (CDT) sometimes claim (i) that it gives the wrong advice in Egan-style cases, where the CDT-endorsed act brings news that it causes a bad outcome; (ii) that CDT gives the right advice in Newcomb cases, where it is known in advance that the CDT-act causes you to be richer than the alternative. This paper argues that (i) and (ii) cannot both be true if rational preference over acts is transitive.
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  8. Arif Ahmed (2010). Causation and Decision. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 110 (2pt2):111-131.
    Sophisticated ‘tickle’-style defences of Evidential Decision Theory take your motivational state to screen off your act from any state that is causally independent of it, thus ensuring that EDT and CDT converge. That leads to unacceptable instability in cases in which the correct action is obvious. We need a more liberal conception of what the agent controls. It follows that an ordinary deliberator should sometimes consider the past and not only the future to be subject to her present choice.
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  9. Arif Ahmed & Adam Caulton (2014). Causal Decision Theory and EPR Correlations. Synthese 191 (18):4315-4352.
    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 (...)
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  10. Arif Ahmed & Huw Price (2012). Arntzenius on 'Why Ain'cha Rich?'. Erkenntnis 77 (1):15-30.
    The best-known argument for Evidential Decision Theory (EDT) is the ‘Why ain’cha rich?’ challenge to rival Causal Decision Theory (CDT). The basis for this challenge is that in Newcomb-like situations, acts that conform to EDT may be known in advance to have the better return than acts that conform to CDT. Frank Arntzenius has recently proposed an ingenious counter argument, based on an example in which, he claims, it is predictable in advance that acts that conform to EDT will do (...)
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  11. M. Albert (2007). The Propensity Theory: A Decision-Theoretic Restatement. Synthese 156 (3):587 - 603.
    Probability theory is important because of its relevance for decision making, which also means: its relevance for the single case. The propensity theory of objective probability, which addresses the single case, is subject to two problems: Humphreys’ problem of inverse probabilities and the problem of the reference class. The paper solves both problems by restating the propensity theory using (an objectivist version of) Pearl’s approach to causality and probability, and by applying a decision-theoretic perspective. Contrary to a widely held view, (...)
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  12. Brad Armendt (1988). Impartiality and Causal Decision Theory. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:326 - 336.
    Defenders of sophisticated evidential decision theory (EDT) have argued (1) that its failure to provide correct recommendations in problems where the agent believes himself asymmetrically fallible in executing his choices is no flaw of the theory, and (2) that causal decision theory gives incorrect recommendations in certain examples unless it is supplemented with an additional metatickle or ratifiability deliberation mechanism. In the first part of this paper, I argue that both positions are incorrect. In the second part of the paper, (...)
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  13. Brad Armendt (1986). A Foundation for Causal Decision Theory. Topoi 5 (1):3-19.
    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 (...)
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  14. Bradshaw Frederick Armendt (1983). Rational Decision Theory: The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory. Dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago
    In recent years rational decision theories such as Richard Jeffrey's, which recommend that an agent act so as to maximize his conditional expected utility, have come under attack on the grounds that they are unable to adequately handle certain kinds of decision problems. Because of their general structure, these problems are sometimes known as "causal counterexamples" to the theories; well-known examples are Newcomb's problem, the Prisoner's Dilemma, and Fisher's smoking gene problem. Several versions of "causal decision theory" have been presented (...)
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  15. Frank Arntzenius (2008). No Regrets, Or: Edith Piaf Revamps Decision Theory. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 68 (2):277-297.
    I argue that standard decision theories, namely causal decision theory and evidential decision theory, both are unsatisfactory. I devise a new decision theory, from which, under certain conditions, standard game theory can be derived.
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  16. Nick Bostrom (2001). The Meta-Newcomb Problem. Analysis 61 (4):309–310.
    There are two boxes in front of you and you are asked to choose between taking only box B or taking both box A and box B. Box A contains $ 1,000. Box B will contain either nothing or $ 1,000,000. What B will contain is (or will be) determined by Predictor, who has an excellent track record of predicting your choices. There are two possibilities. Either Predictor has already made his move by predicting your choice and putting a million (...)
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  17. Richard Bradley (2001). Review. James M. Joyce 'Foundations of Causal Decision Theory'. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 17 (2):275-294.
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  18. Rachael Briggs (2010). Decision-Theoretic Paradoxes as Voting Paradoxes. Philosophical Review 119 (1):1-30.
    It is a platitude among decision theorists that agents should choose their actions so as to maximize expected value. But exactly how to define expected value is contentious. Evidential decision theory (henceforth EDT), causal decision theory (henceforth CDT), and a theory proposed by Ralph Wedgwood that this essay will call benchmark theory (BT) all advise agents to maximize different types of expected value. Consequently, their verdicts sometimes conflict. In certain famous cases of conflict—medical Newcomb problems—CDT and BT seem to get (...)
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  19. John Cantwell (2013). Conditionals in Causal Decision Theory. Synthese 190 (4):661-679.
    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 (...)
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  20. John Cantwell (2010). On an Alleged Counter-Example to Causal Decision Theory. Synthese 173 (2):127 - 152.
    An alleged counterexample to causal decision theory, put forward by Andy Egan, is studied in some detail. It is argued that Egan rejects the evaluation of causal decision theory on the basis of a description of the decision situation that is different from—indeed inconsistent with—the description on which causal decision theory makes its evaluation. So the example is not a counterexample to causal decision theory. Nevertheless, the example shows that causal decision theory can recommend unratifiable acts (acts that once decided (...)
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  21. James Cargile (1984). Review of Rational Decision and Causality. [REVIEW] Journal of Philosophy 81 (3):163-168.
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  22. Eric G. Cavalcanti (2010). Causation, Decision Theory, and Bell's Theorem: A Quantum Analogue of the Newcomb Problem. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (3):569-597.
    I apply some of the lessons from quantum theory, in particular from Bell’s theorem, to a debate on the foundations of decision theory and causation. By tracing a formal analogy between the basic assumptions of causal decision theory (CDT)—which was developed partly in response to Newcomb’s problem— and those of a local hidden variable theory in the context of quantum mechanics, I show that an agent who acts according to CDT and gives any nonzero credence to some possible causal interpretations (...)
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  23. Esteban Céspedes (2013). Overdetermination in Intuitive Causal Decision Theory. In Miguel Hoeltje, Thomas Spitzley & Wolfgang Spohn (eds.), Was dürfen wir glauben? Was sollen wir tun? Sektionsbeiträge des achten internationalen Kongresses der Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie e.V.
    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, (...)
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  24. Esteban Céspedes, Preemption and a Dilemma for Causal Decision Theory.
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  25. John Collins (2015). Decision Theory After Lewis. In Barry Loewer & Jonathan Schaffer (eds.), A Companion to David Lewis. John Wiley and Sons 446-458.
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  26. John Collins, Supposition and Choice: Why 'Causal Decision Theory' is a Misnomer.
    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 (...)
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  27. Daniel Dohrn, DeRose on the Conditionals of Deliberation.
    I take issue with two claims of DeRose: Conditionals of deliberation must not depend on backtracking grounds. ‘Were’ed-up conditionals coincide with future-directed indicative conditionals; the only difference in their meaning is that they must not depend on backtracking grounds. I use Egan’s counterexamples to causal decision theory to contest the first and an example of backtracking reasoning by David Lewis to contest the second claim. I tentatively outline a rivaling account of ‘were’ed-up conditionals which combines features of the standard analysis (...)
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  28. P. Dowe (1998). A Problem for Causal Decision Theory: Causality and Identity. Communication and Cognition. Monographies 31 (4):325-338.
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  29. Dorothy Edgington (2011). Conditionals, Causation, and Decision. Analytic Philosophy 52 (2):75-87.
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  30. Ellery Eells (2000). Review: The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory, by James M. Joyce. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (4):893-900.
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  31. Ellery Eells (1984). Causal Decision Theory. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:177 - 200.
    After a brief presentation of evidential decision theory, causal decision theory, and Newcomb type prima facie counterexamples to the evidential theory, three kinds of "metatickle" defenses of the evidential theory are discussed. Each has its weaknesses, but one of them seems stronger than the other two. The weaknesses of the best of the three, and the intricacy of metatickle analysis, does not constitute an advantage of causal decision theory over the evidential theory, however. It is argued, by way of an (...)
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  32. Ellery Eells (1982). Rational Decision and Causality. Cambridge University Press.
    In past years, the traditional Bayesian theory of rational decision making, based on subjective calculations of expected utility, has faced powerful attack from philosophers such as David Lewis and Brian Skyrms, who advance an alternative causal decision theory. The test they present for the Bayesian is exemplified in the decision problem known as 'Newcomb's paradox' and in related decision problems and is held to support the prescriptions of the causal theory. As well as his conclusions, the concepts and methods of (...)
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  33. Ellery Eells (1981). Causality, Utility, and Decision. Synthese 48 (2):295 - 329.
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  34. Ellery Eells & William L. Harper (1991). Ratifiability, Game Theory, and the Principle of Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 69 (1):1 – 19.
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  35. Andy Egan (2007). Some Counterexamples to Causal Decision Theory. Philosophical Review 116 (1):93-114.
    Many philosophers (myself included) have been converted to causal decision theory by something like the following line of argument: Evidential decision theory endorses irrational courses of action in a range of examples, and endorses “an irrational policy of managing the news”. These are fatal problems for evidential decision theory. Causal decision theory delivers the right results in the troublesome examples, and does not endorse this kind of irrational news-managing. So we should give up evidential decision theory, and be causal decision (...)
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  36. Justin C. Fisher, Disposition-Based Decision Theory.
    I develop and defend a version of what I call Disposition-Based Decision Theory (or DBDT). I point out important problems in David Gauthier’s (1985, 1986) formulation of DBDT, and carefully develop a more defensible formulation. I then compare my version of DBDT to the currently most widely accepted decision theory, Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Traditional intuition-based arguments fail to give us any strong reason to prefer either theory over the other, but I propose an alternative strategy for resolving this debate. (...)
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  37. Branden Fitelson (2003). Review: The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory. [REVIEW] Mind 112 (447):545-551.
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  38. Peter Gärdenfors & Nils-Eric Sahlin (eds.) (1988). Decision, Probability, and Utility. Cambridge University Press.
    Decision theory and the theory of rational choice have recently been the subjects of considerable research by philosophers and economists. However, no adequate anthology exists which can be used to introduce students to the field. This volume is designed to meet that need. The essays included are organized into five parts covering the foundations of decision theory, the conceptualization of probability and utility, pholosophical difficulties with the rules of rationality and with the assessment of probability, and causal decision theory. The (...)
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  39. Allan Gibbard & William Harper (1978). Counterfactuals and Two Kinds of Expected Utility. In A. Hooker, J. J. Leach & E. F. McClennen (eds.), Foundations and Applications of Decision Theory. D. Reidel 125-162.
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  40. Johan E. Gustafsson (2011). A Note in Defence of Ratificationism. Erkenntnis 75 (1):147–150.
    Andy Egan argues that neither evidential nor causal decision theory gives the intuitively right recommendation in the cases The Smoking Lesion, The Psychopath Button, and The Three-Option Smoking Lesion. Furthermore, Egan argues that we cannot avoid these problems by any kind of ratificationism. This paper develops a new version of ratificationism that gives the right recommendations. Thus, the new proposal has an advantage over evidential and casual decision theory and standard ratificationist evidential decision theory.
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  41. Caspar Hare & Brian Hedden (2015). Self‐Reinforcing and Self‐Frustrating Decisions. Noûs 49 (3).
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  42. W. L. Harper & B. Skyrms (eds.) (1988). Causation in Decision, Belief Change, and Statistics, Vol. II. Kluwer.
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  43. William Harper (1988). Decisions, Games and Equilibrium Solutions. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:344 - 362.
    This paper includes a survey of decision theories directed toward exploring the adequacy of alternative approaches for application to game theoretic reasoning, a review of the classic results of von Neumann and Morgenstern and Nash about equilibrium solutions, an account of a recent challenge to the idea that solutions should be equilibria, and, finally, an explicit reconstruction and defense (using the resources of causal decision theory) of the classic indirect argument for equilibrium solutions.
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  44. William Harper (1988). Causal Decision Theory and Game Theory. In William Harper & Brian Skyrms (eds.), Causation in Decision, Belief Change, and Statistics. Springer Netherlands 25-48.
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  45. William Harper (1986). Mixed Strategies and Ratifiability in Causal Decision Theory. Erkenntnis 24 (1):25 - 36.
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  46. William Harper (1984). Ratifiability and Causal Decision Theory: Comments on Eells and Seidenfeld. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:213 - 228.
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  47. William Leonard Harper, Robert Stalnaker & Glenn Pearce (eds.) (1981). Ifs. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
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  48. Christopher Hitchcock (forthcoming). Conditioning, Intervening, and Decision. Synthese:1-20.
    Clark Glymour, together with his students Peter Spirtes and Richard Scheines, did pioneering work on graphical causal models . One of the central advances provided by these models is the ability to simply represent the effects of interventions. In an elegant paper , Glymour and his student Christopher Meek applied these methods to problems in decision theory. One of the morals they drew was that causal decision theory should be understood in terms of interventions. I revisit their proposal, and extend (...)
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  49. Christopher Hitchcock (2013). What is the 'Cause' in Causal Decision Theory? Erkenntnis 78 (1):129-146.
    A simple counterfactual theory of causation fails because of problems with cases of preemption. This might lead us to expect that preemption will raise problems for counterfactual theories of other concepts that have a causal dimension. Indeed, examples are easy to find. But there is one case where we do not find this. Several versions of causal decision theory are formulated using counterfactuals. This might lead us to expect that these theories will yield the wrong recommendations in cases of preemption. (...)
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  50. Christopher Read Hitchcock (1996). Causal Decision Theory and Decision-Theoretic Causation. Noûs 30 (4):508-526.
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