A generalization of the theory of subjective probability and expected utility

Synthese 90 (2):301 - 343 (1992)
Abstract
A generalization of the usual approach to the expected utility theory is given, with the aim of representing the state of belief of an agent who may decline on grounds of ignorance to express a preference between a given pair of acts and would, therefore, be considered irrational from a Bayesian point of view. Taking state, act, and outcome as primitive concepts, a utility function on the outcomes is constructed in the usual way. Each act is represented by a utility-valued function on the states — but not all such functions are taken to represent acts. A weaker than usual set of axioms on preferences between acts is now postulated. It is shown that any agent can be represented by a risk function that assigns to each (mixed) state a number that gives the maximum loss (in utility) the agent might expect should be the actual state of the world. The form of the risk function is determined, both in general and in important particular cases. The results show that any rational agent behaves as though he were acting under the guidance of a set of Bayesian (or, more generally, pseudo-Bayesian) advisors.
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