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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. Causal Decision Theory: A Counterexample.A. Ahmed - 2013 - 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.
  2. Sequential Choice and the Agent's Perspective.Arif Ahmed - manuscript
    Causal Decision Theory reckons the choice-worthiness of an option to be completely independent of its evidential bearing on its non-effects. But after one has made a choice this bearing is relevant to future decisions. Therefore it is possible to construct problems of sequential choice in which Causal Decision Theory makes a guaranteed loss. So Causal Decision Theory is wrong. The source of the problem is the idea that agents have a special perspective on their own contemplated actions, from which evidential (...)
  3. Newcomb's Problem.Arif Ahmed (ed.) - 2018 - Cambridge University Press.
    Newcomb's Problem is a controversial paradox of decision theory. It is easily explained and easily understood, and there is a strong chance that most of us have actually faced it in some form or other. And yet it has proven as thorny and intractable a puzzle as much older and better-known philosophical problems of consciousness, scepticism and fatalism. It brings into very sharp and focused disagreement several long-standing philosophical theories on practical rationality, on the nature of free will, and on (...)
  4. Infallibility in the Newcomb Problem.Arif Ahmed - 2015 - 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.
  5. Causal Decision Theory and the Fixity of the Past.Arif Ahmed - 2014 - 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 (...)
  6. Dicing with Death.Arif Ahmed - 2014 - 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.
  7. Evidence, Decision and Causality.Arif Ahmed - 2014 - 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 (...)
  8. Push the Button.Arif Ahmed - 2012 - 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.
  9. Causation and Decision.Arif Ahmed - 2010 - 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.
  10. Smokers and Psychos: Egan Cases Don't Work.Arif Ahmed - manuscript
    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.
  11. Causal Decision Theory and EPR Correlations.Arif Ahmed & Adam Caulton - 2014 - 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 (...)
  12. Arntzenius on “Why Ain’Cha Rich?”.Arif Ahmed & Huw Price - 2012 - 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 (...)
  13. The Propensity Theory: A Decision-Theoretic Restatement.M. Albert - 2007 - 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, (...)
  14. Conditional Preference and Causal Expected Utility.Brad Armendt - 1988 - In William Harper & Brian Skyrms (eds.), Causation in Decision, Belief Change, and Statistics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 3-24.
    Sequel to Armendt 1986, ‘A Foundation for Causal Decision Theory.’ The representation theorem for causal decision theory is slightly revised, with the addition of a new restriction on lotteries and a new axiom (A7). The discussion gives some emphasis to the way in which appropriate K-partitions are characterized by relations found among the agent’s conditional preferences. The intended interpretation of conditional preference is one that embodies a sensitivity to the agent’s causal beliefs.
  15. Impartiality and Causal Decision Theory.Brad Armendt - 1988 - 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, (...)
  16. A Foundation for Causal Decision Theory.Brad Armendt - 1986 - 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 (...)
  17. Rational Decision Theory: The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory.Bradshaw Frederick Armendt - 1983 - 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 (...)
  18. No Regrets, Or: Edith Piaf Revamps Decision Theory.Frank Arntzenius - 2008 - 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.
  19. Richness and Rationality: Causal Decision Theory and the WAR Argument.Adam Bales - 2018 - Synthese 195 (1):259-267.
    Causal decision theory is one of our most prominent theories of rational choice and the “why ain’cha rich?” argument is one of the most prominent objections to this theory. According to WAR, CDT is not an adequate theory of rational choice because it leads agents to make decisions that foreseeably leave them less well off than agents that decide in some other manner. Some philosophers take WAR to decisively undermine CDT. On the other hand, others take WAR to fail to (...)
  20. The Pauper’s Problem: Chance, Foreknowledge and Causal Decision Theory.Adam Bales - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (6):1497-1516.
    In a letter to Wlodek Rabinowicz, David Lewis introduced a decision scenario that he described as “much more problematic for decision theory than the Newcomb Problems”. This scenario, which involves an agent with foreknowledge of the outcome of some chance process, has received little subsequent attention. However, in one of the small number of discussions of such cases, Huw Price's Causation, Chance and the Rational Significance of Supernatural Evidence it has been argued that cases of this sort pose serious problems (...)
  21. The Meta-Newcomb Problem.Nick Bostrom - 2001 - 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 (...)
  22. Review. James M. Joyce 'Foundations of Causal Decision Theory'. [REVIEW]Richard Bradley - 2001 - Economics and Philosophy 17 (2):275-294.
  23. Decision-Theoretic Paradoxes as Voting Paradoxes.Rachael Briggs - 2010 - 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 (...)
  24. The Newcomb Problem: An Unqualified Resolution.Simon Burgess - 2004 - Synthese 138 (2):261 - 287.
    The Newcomb problem is analysed here as a type of common cause problem. In relation to such problems, if you take the dominated option your expected outcome will be good and if you take the dominant option your expected outcome will be not so good. As is explained, however, these arenot conventional conditional expected outcomes but `conditional evidence expected outcomes' and while in the deliberation process, the evidence on which they are based is only hypothetical evidence.Conventional conditional expected outcomes are (...)
  25. Paradoxes of Rationality and Cooperation: Prisoner's Dilemma and Newcomb's Problem.Richmond Campbell & Lanning Snowden (eds.) - 1985 - University of British Columbia Press.
    1 Background for the Uninitiated RICHMOND CAMPBELL Paradoxes are intrinsically fascinating. They are also distinctively ...
  26. Conditionals in Causal Decision Theory.John Cantwell - 2013 - 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 (...)
  27. On an Alleged Counter-Example to Causal Decision Theory.John Cantwell - 2010 - 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 which presents a problem (...)
  28. Review of Rational Decision and Causality. [REVIEW]James Cargile - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (3):163-168.
  29. Causation, Decision Theory, and Bell's Theorem: A Quantum Analogue of the Newcomb Problem.Eric G. Cavalcanti - 2010 - 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 (...)
  30. Overdetermination in Intuitive Causal Decision Theory.Esteban Céspedes - 2013 - 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, (...)
  31. Preemption and a Dilemma for Causal Decision Theory.Esteban Céspedes - unknown
    This item has been retired at the request of its author.
  32. The Dr. Psycho Paradox and Newcomb's Problem.Michael Clark & Nicholas Shackel - 2006 - Erkenntnis 64 (1):85 - 100.
    Nicholas Rescher claims that rational decision theory “may leave us in the lurch”, because there are two apparently acceptable ways of applying “the standard machinery of expected-value analysis” to his Dr. Psycho paradox which recommend contradictory actions. He detects a similar contradiction in Newcomb’s problem. We consider his claims from the point of view of both Bayesian decision theory and causal decision theory. In Dr. Psycho and in Newcomb’s Problem, Rescher has used premisses about probabilities which he assumes to be (...)
  33. Decision Theory After Lewis.John Collins - 2015 - In Barry Loewer & Jonathan Schaffer (eds.), A Companion to David Lewis. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 446-458.
  34. Supposition and Choice: Why 'Causal Decision Theory' is a Misnomer.John Collins - unknown
    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 (...)
  35. The Conditionals of Deliberation.K. DeRose - 2010 - Mind 119 (473):1-42.
    Practical deliberation often involves conditional judgements about what will (likely) happen if certain alternatives are pursued. It is widely assumed that the conditionals useful in deliberation are counterfactual or subjunctive conditionals. Against this, I argue that the conditionals of deliberation are indicatives. Key to the argument is an account of the relation between 'straightforward' future-directed conditionals like ' If the house is not painted, it will soon look quite shabby' and * "w e r e ' ' e d F (...)
  36. DeRose on the Conditionals of Deliberation.Daniel Dohrn - manuscript
    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 (...)
  37. Egan and Agents: How Evidential Decision Theory Can Deal with Egan’s Dilemma.Daniel Dohrn - 2015 - Synthese 192 (6):1883-1908.
    Andy Egan has presented a dilemma for decision theory. As is well known, Newcomb cases appear to undermine the case for evidential decision theory. However, Egan has come up with a new scenario which poses difficulties for causal decision theory. I offer a simple solution to this dilemma in terms of a modified EDT. I propose an epistemological test: take some feature which is relevant to your evaluation of the scenarios under consideration, evidentially correlated with the actions under consideration albeit, (...)
  38. Against Counterfactual Miracles.Cian Dorr - 2016 - Philosophical Review 125 (2):241-286.
    This paper considers how counterfactuals should be evaluated on the assumption that determinism is true. I argue against Lewis's influential view that the actual laws of nature would have been false if something had happened that never actually happened, and in favour of the competing view that history would have been different all the way back. I argue that we can do adequate justice to our ordinary practice of relying on a wide range of historical truths in evaluating counterfactuals by (...)
  39. A Problem for Causal Decision Theory: Causality and Identity.P. Dowe - 1998 - Communication and Cognition. Monographies 31 (4):325-338.
  40. Conditionals, Causation, and Decision.Dorothy Edgington - 2011 - Analytic Philosophy 52 (2):75-87.
  41. Review: The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory, by James M. Joyce. [REVIEW]Ellery Eells - 2000 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (4):893-900.
  42. Causal Decision Theory.Ellery Eells - 1984 - 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 (...)
  43. Rational Decision and Causality.Ellery Eells - 1982 - 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 (...)
  44. Causality, Utility, and Decision.Ellery Eells - 1981 - Synthese 48 (2):295 - 329.
  45. Newcomb's Paradox and the Principle of Maximizing Conditional Expected Utility.Ellery Thomas Eells - 1980 - Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
    Finally, I examine Newcomb's paradox in detail and show that, contrary to what has generally been thought, one can consistently be both a conditional expected utility maximizer and a "two-boxer". ;An important by-product of my argument is a method of detecting a variety of an agent's causal beliefs--including those that are crucial to the alleged counterexamples--by facts about his subjective probabilities over propositions that do not involve causal concepts. The versatility of this method, together with a series of theorems I (...)
  46. Ratifiability, Game Theory, and the Principle of Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives.Ellery Eells & William L. Harper - 1991 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 69 (1):1 – 19.
  47. Some Counterexamples to Causal Decision Theory.Andy Egan - 2007 - 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 (...)
  48. Disposition-Based Decision Theory.Justin C. Fisher - unknown
    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. (...)
  49. Review: The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory. [REVIEW]Branden Fitelson - 2003 - Mind 112 (447):545-551.
  50. The Causal Decision Theorist's Guide to Managing the News.J. Dmitri Gallow - manuscript
    Causal decision theorists say that the good news an act carries about factors outside of your control does not speak in favor of performing that act. But, by providing information about factors outside of your control, an act can tell you two, importantly different, kinds of things. It can tell you that the world in which you find yourself is good; but so too can it tell you that the act itself does the most possible to improve things. While the (...)
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