Ramsey's Foundations Extended to Desirabilities

Theory and Decision 44 (3):231-278 (1998)
Abstract
In his Truth and Probability (1926), Frank Ramsey provides foundations for measures of degrees of belief in propositions and preferences for worlds. Nonquantitative conditions on preferences for worlds, and gambles for worlds and certain near-worlds, are formulated which he says insure that a subject's preferences for worlds are represented by numbers, world values. Numbers, for his degrees of belief in propositions, probabilities, are then defined in terms of his world values. Ramsey does not also propose definitions of desirabilities for propositions, though he is in a position to do this. Given his measures for probabilities of propositions and values of worlds, he can frame natural definitions for both evidential and causal desirabilities that would measure respectively the welcomeness of propositions as items of news, and as facts. His theory is neutral with respect to the evidential/causal division. In the present paper, as Ramsey's foundations are explained, several problems and limitations are noted. Their distinctive virtue – their evidential/causal neutrality – is demonstrated. Comparisons are made with other foundational schemes, and a perspective is recommended from which nonquantitative foundations are not the be all for quantitative theories of ideal preferences and credences
Keywords Ramsey  Evidential and Causal decision theory  Probability  Foundations
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