David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy of Science 56 (4):624-641 (1989)
An option available to an agent is stable if it maximizes expected utility on the hypothetical assumption that the agent is going to choose it. As is well known, some decision problems lack a stable solution. Paul Weirich (1986 and 1988) has recently proposed a decision principle which prescribes that the option chosen should be at least weakly stable--or "weakly ratifiable", to use his terminology. According to him, full stability is an excessively strong demand. I shall argue that Weirich's proposal conflicts with the familiar condition of dominance. But I shall also prove that this difficulty can be avoided if we replace weak stability by "moderate" stability--where the latter property is somewhat stronger than the former. It will be seen, however, that this modification does not help against other ailments connected with stability. In particular, to heed the demand of stability (of any kind) is to engage in a form of "wishful acting". Also, the different stability demands all conflict with a close relative of the dominance condition: the condition of "indifference". According to this condition, two actions are equally choiceworthy if they would always lead to the same outcomes--whatever state the world is in. On the other hand, the conditions of dominance and indifference would both be satisfied if we replaced a demand for stability (of some kind) by a related but distinct principle of "retrievability". Retrievability and (full) stability are mutually independent properties of options, but each of them entails moderate stability. The paper ends with a discussion of the relevance of retrievability to theories of choiceworthiness and practical reason
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