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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. added 2020-04-20
    Intentions and Instability: A Defence of Causal Decision Theory.Adam Bales - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (3):793-804.
    Andy Egan has recently presented a prominent objection to causal decision theory. However, in this paper, I argue that this objection fails if CDT’s proponent accepts the plausible view that decision-theoretic options are intentions. This result both provides a defence of CDT against a prominent objection and highlights the importance of resolving the nature of decision-theoretic options.
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  2. added 2020-03-03
    Frankfurt Cases and the Newcomb Problem.Arif Ahmed - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-18.
    A standard argument for one-boxing in Newcomb’s Problem is ‘Why Ain’cha Rich?’, which emphasizes that one-boxers typically make a million dollars compared to the thousand dollars that two-boxers can expect. A standard reply is the ‘opportunity defence’: the two-boxers who made a thousand never had an opportunity to make more. The paper argues that the opportunity defence is unavailable to anyone who grants that in another case—a Frankfurt case—the agent is deprived of opportunities in the way that advocates of Frankfurt (...)
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  3. added 2020-02-12
    Rational Decision and Causality.James Cargile - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (3):163-168.
  4. added 2020-02-01
    Equal Opportunities in Newcomb’s Problem and Elsewhere.Arif Ahmed - forthcoming - Mind:fzz073.
    The paper discusses Ian Wells’s recent argument that there is a decision problem in which followers of Evidential Decision Theory end up poorer than followers of Causal Decision Theory despite having the same opportunities for money. It defends Evidential Decision Theory against Wells’s argument, on the following grounds. Wells's has not presented a decision problem in which his main claim is true. Four possible decision problems can be generated from his central example, in each of which followers of Evidential Decision (...)
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  5. added 2020-01-23
    The Causal Decision Theorist's Guide to Managing the News.J. Dmitri Gallow - 2020 - Journal of Philosophy 117 (3):117-149.
    According to orthodox causal decision theory, performing an action can give you information about factors outside of your control, but you should not take this information into account when deciding what to do. Causal decision theorists caution against an irrational policy of 'managing the news'. But, by providing information about factors outside of your control, performing an act can give you two, importantly different, kinds of good news. It can tell you that the world in which you find yourself is (...)
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  6. added 2019-11-05
    Review of Arif Ahmed (Ed.), Newcomb's Problem. [REVIEW]Jack Spencer - 2019 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2019.
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  7. added 2019-10-17
    Decision-Theoretic Pluralism.Adam Bales - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (273):801-818.
    A prominent philosophical debate concerns whether we should accept causal decision theory or evidential decision theory as our best theory of rational choice. However, instead of accepting one of these theories at the expense of the other, an alternative would be to accept that both theories play a partial role in the true account of rational choice. In this paper, I defend a pluralist account of this sort. In particular, I argue that rational permissibility is an indeterminate notion, with EDT (...)
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  8. added 2019-10-12
    Causal Decision Theory’s Predetermination Problem.Toby Charles Penhallurick Solomon - forthcoming - Synthese:1-32.
    It has often been noted that there is some tension between engaging in decision-making and believing that one’s choices might be predetermined. The possibility that our choices are predetermined forces us to consider, in our decisions, act-state pairs which are inconsistent, and hence to which we cannot assign sensible utilities. But the reasoning which justifies two-boxing in Newcomb’s problem also justifies associating a non-zero causal probability with these inconsistent act-state pairs. Put together these undefined utilities and non-zero probabilities entail that (...)
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  9. added 2019-10-03
    Newcomb’s Problem, Arif Ahmed (Editor). Cambridge University Press, 2018, 233 Pages. [REVIEW]J. Dmitri Gallow - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
    Newcomb’s Problem, Arif Ahmed (editor). Cambridge University Press, 2018, 233 pages.
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  10. added 2019-09-19
    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 (...)
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  11. added 2019-08-17
    Escaping the Cycle.J. Dmitri Gallow - manuscript
    I present a decision problem in which orthodox causal decision theory appears to violate weak versions of the independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA) and normal-form extensive-form equivalence (NEE). I show that these violations lead to exploitable behavior and long-run poverty. These consequences appear damning, but I urge caution. Causalists can dispute the charge that they violate IIA and NEE in this case by carefully specifying when two options in different decision problems are similar enough to be counted as the same.
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  12. added 2019-06-05
    The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory.Isaac Levi & James M. Joyce - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (7):387.
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  13. added 2019-05-01
    Causal Decision Theory is Safe From Psychopaths.Timothy Luke Williamson - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    Until recently, many philosophers took Causal Decision Theory to be more successful than its rival, Evidential Decision Theory. Things have changed, however, with a renewed concern that cases involving an extreme form of decision instability are counterexamples to CDT :392–403, 1984; Egan in Philos Rev 116:93–114, 2007). Most prominent among those cases of extreme decision instability is the Psychopath Button, due to Andy Egan; in that case, CDT recommends a seemingly absurd act that almost certainly results in your death. This (...)
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  14. added 2019-04-01
    Riches and Rationality.J. Dmitri Gallow - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-16.
    A one-boxer, Erica, and a two-boxer, Chloe, engage in a familiar debate. The debate begins with Erica asking Chloe: ‘If you’re so smart, then why ain’cha rich?’. As the debate progresses, Chloe is led to endorse a novel causalist theory of rational choice. This new theory allows Chloe to forge a connection between rational choice and long-run riches. In brief: Chloe concludes that it is not long-run wealth but rather long-run wealth creation which is symptomatic of rationality.
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  15. added 2019-03-20
    Causal Decision Theory and Decision Instability.Brad Armendt - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy 116 (5):263-277.
    The problem of the man who met death in Damascus appeared in the infancy of the theory of rational choice known as causal decision theory. A straightforward, unadorned version of causal decision theory is presented here and applied, along with Brian Skyrms’ deliberation dynamics, to Death in Damascus and similar problems. Decision instability is a fascinating topic, but not a source of difficulty for causal decision theory. Andy Egan’s purported counterexample to causal decision theory, Murder Lesion, is considered; a simple (...)
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  16. added 2019-03-08
    The Termination Risks of Simulation Science.Preston Greene - 2020 - Erkenntnis 85 (2):489-509.
    Historically, the hypothesis that our world is a computer simulation has struck many as just another improbable-but-possible “skeptical hypothesis” about the nature of reality. Recently, however, the simulation hypothesis has received significant attention from philosophers, physicists, and the popular press. This is due to the discovery of an epistemic dependency: If we believe that our civilization will one day run many simulations concerning its ancestry, then we should believe that we are probably in an ancestor simulation right now. This essay (...)
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  17. added 2019-03-08
    Success-First Decision Theories.Preston Greene - 2018 - In Arif Ahmed (ed.), Newcomb's Problem. Cambridge University Press. pp. 115–137.
    The standard formulation of Newcomb's problem compares evidential and causal conceptions of expected utility, with those maximizing evidential expected utility tending to end up far richer. Thus, in a world in which agents face Newcomb problems, the evidential decision theorist might ask the causal decision theorist: "if you're so smart, why ain’cha rich?” Ultimately, however, the expected riches of evidential decision theorists in Newcomb problems do not vindicate their theory, because their success does not generalize. Consider a theory that allows (...)
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  18. added 2019-02-26
    Newcomb University: A Play in One Act.Adam Elga - 2020 - Analysis 80 (2):212-221.
    Counter-intuitive consequences of both causal decision theory and evidential decision theory are dramatized. Each of those theories is thereby put under some pressure to supply an error theory to explain away intuitions that seem to favour the other. Because trouble is stirred up for both sides, complacency about Newcomb’s problem is discouraged.
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  19. added 2018-11-14
    Evidence and Rationalization.Ian Wells - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (3):845-864.
    Suppose that you have to take a test tomorrow but you do not want to study. Unfortunately you should study, since you care about passing and you expect to pass only if you study. Is there anything you can do to make it the case that you should not study? Is there any way for you to ‘rationalize’ slacking off? I suggest that such rationalization is impossible. Then I show that if evidential decision theory is true, rationalization is not only (...)
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  20. added 2018-11-14
    Equal Opportunity and Newcomb’s Problem.Ian Wells - 2019 - Mind 128 (510):429-457.
    The 'Why ain'cha rich?' argument for one-boxing in Newcomb's problem allegedly vindicates evidential decision theory and undermines causal decision theory. But there is a good response to the argument on behalf of causal decision theory. I develop this response. Then I pose a new problem and use it to give a new 'Why ain'cha rich?' argument. Unlike the old argument, the new argument targets evidential decision theory. And unlike the old argument, the new argument is sound.
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  21. added 2018-09-24
    Why Take Both Boxes?Jack Spencer & Ian Wells - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (1):27-48.
    The crucial premise of the standard argument for two-boxing in Newcomb's problem, a causal dominance principle, is false. We present some counterexamples. We then offer a metaethical explanation for why the counterexamples arise. Our explanation reveals a new and superior argument for two-boxing, one that eschews the causal dominance principle in favor of a principle linking rational choice to guidance and actual value maximization.
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  22. added 2018-06-18
    No Crystal Balls.Jack Spencer - forthcoming - Noûs.
    The world is said to contain crystal balls whenever the present carries news of the as-yet-undetermined parts of the future. Many philosophers believe that crystal balls are metaphysically possible. In this essay, I argue that they are not. Whether crystal balls are possible matters, for at least two reasons. The first is epistemological. According to a simple, user-friendly chance norm for credence, which I call the Present Principle, agents are rationally required to conform their credences to their expectations of the (...)
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  23. added 2018-03-27
    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 (...)
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  24. added 2018-03-06
    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 (...)
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  25. added 2018-02-25
    "Click!" Bait for Causalists.Huw Price & Yang Liu - 2018 - In Arif Ahmed (ed.), Newcomb's Problem. Cambridge ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 160-179.
    Causalists and Evidentialists can agree about the right course of action in an (apparent) Newcomb problem, if the causal facts are not as initially they seem. If declining $1,000 causes the Predictor to have placed $1m in the opaque box, CDT agrees with EDT that one-boxing is rational. This creates a difficulty for Causalists. We explain the problem with reference to Dummett's work on backward causation and Lewis's on chance and crystal balls. We show that the possibility that the causal (...)
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  26. added 2018-01-19
    Do the EPR Correlations Pose a Problem for Causal Decision Theory?Adam Koberinski, Lucas Dunlap & William L. Harper - 2017 - Synthese:1-12.
    We argue that causal decision theory is no worse off than evidential decision theory in handling entanglement, regardless of one’s preferred interpretation of quantum mechanics. In recent works, Ahmed and Ahmed and Caulton : 4315–4352, 2014) have claimed the opposite; we argue that they are mistaken. Bell-type experiments are not instances of Newcomb problems, so CDT and EDT do not diverge in their recommendations. We highlight the fact that a Causal Decision Theorist should take all lawlike correlations into account, including (...)
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  27. added 2017-03-22
    The Faulty Signal Problem: Counterfactual Asymmetries in Causal Decision Theory and Rational Deliberation.Daniel Listwa - 2018 - Synthese 195 (6):2717-2739.
    A decision theory can be useful not only as a tool for determining which action, given your desires and beliefs, is most preferable, but also as a means for analyzing the nature of rational deliberation. In this paper, I turn to two classic proposals for a causal decision theory, that of Lewis and that of Sobel :407–437, 1986. doi: 10.1080/00048408612342621). As Rabinowicz revealed, Lewis’ proposal is unable to be applied to as broad a set of decision problems as a version (...)
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  28. added 2017-01-29
    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 (...)
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  29. added 2017-01-22
    Causal and Evidential Expectations in Strategic Settings.William Harper - 1993 - Philosophical Topics 21 (1):79-97.
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  30. added 2017-01-17
    Arif Ahmed: Evidence, Decision and Causality.James M. Joyce - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy 113 (4):224-232.
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  31. added 2016-12-08
    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 (...)
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  32. added 2016-12-08
    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, (...)
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  33. added 2016-12-05
    Diagnostic Preliminaries to Applying a Theory of Decision.Mariam Thalos - 2014 - SATS 15 (2):168-196.
    Journal Name: SATS Issue: Ahead of print.
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  34. added 2016-09-22
    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 (...)
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  35. added 2016-09-14
    Book Review:Taking Chances: Essays on Rational Choice. Jordan Howard Sobel. [REVIEW]Paul Weirich - 1995 - Ethics 106 (1):191-.
    J. Howard Sobel has long been recognized as an important figure in philosophical discussions of rational decision. He has done much to help formulate the concept of causal decision theory. In this volume of essays Sobel explores the Bayesian idea that rational actions maximize expected values, where an action's expected value is a weighted average of its agent's values for its possible total outcomes. Newcomb's Problem and The Prisoner's Dilemma are discussed, and Allais-type puzzles are viewed from the perspective of (...)
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  36. added 2016-09-12
    Taking Chances: Essays on Rational Choice.Jordan Howard Sobel - 1994 - Cambridge University Press.
    J. Howard Sobel has long been recognized as an important figure in philosophical discussions of rational decision. He has done much to help formulate the concept of causal decision theory. In this volume of essays Sobel explores the Bayesian idea that rational actions maximize expected values, where an action's expected value is a weighted average of its agent's values for its possible total outcomes. Newcomb's Problem and The Prisoner's Dilemma are discussed, and Allais-type puzzles are viewed from the perspective of (...)
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  37. added 2016-09-08
    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 (...)
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  38. added 2016-08-15
    Counterfactual Desire as Belief.J. Robert G. Williams - manuscript
    Bryne & Hajek (1997) argue that Lewis’s (1988; 1996) objections to identifying desire with belief do not go through if our notion of desire is ‘causalized’ (characterized by causal, rather than evidential, decision theory). I argue that versions of the argument go through on certain assumptions about the formulation of decision theory. There is one version of causal decision theory where the original arguments cannot be formulated—the ‘imaging’ formulation that Joyce (1999) advocates. But I argue this formulation is independently objectionable. (...)
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  39. added 2016-07-23
    Ratificationism Without Ratification: Jeffrey Meets Savage.Wlodzimierz Rabinowicz - 1985 - Theory and Decision 19 (2):171-200.
  40. added 2016-06-08
    Interventionist Decision Theory.Reuben Stern - 2017 - Synthese 194 (10):4133-4153.
    Jim Joyce has argued that David Lewis’s formulation of causal decision theory is inadequate because it fails to apply to the “small world” decisions that people face in real life. Meanwhile, several authors have argued that causal decision theory should be developed such that it integrates the interventionist approach to causal modeling because of the expressive power afforded by the language of causal models, but, as of now, there has been little work towards this end. In this paper, I propose (...)
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  41. added 2016-05-30
    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 (...)
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  42. added 2016-05-23
    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 (...)
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  43. added 2016-05-19
    Evidentialism Reconsidered.David Papineau - 2001 - Noûs 35 (2):239–259.
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  44. added 2016-05-06
    Conditioning, Intervening, and Decision.Christopher Hitchcock - 2016 - Synthese 193 (4).
    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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  45. added 2016-05-05
    Evil and God's Toxin Puzzle.John Pittard - 2016 - Noûs 50 (2):88-108.
    I show that Kavka's toxin puzzle raises a problem for the “Responsibility Theodicy,” which holds that the reason God typically does not intervene to stop the evil effects of our actions is that such intervention would undermine the possibility of our being significantly responsible for overcoming and averting evil. This prominent theodicy seems to require that God be able to do what the agent in Kavka's toxin story cannot do: stick by a plan to do some action at a future (...)
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  46. added 2016-04-11
    Causal Generalizations and Good Advice.Christopher Hitchcock - 2001 - The Monist 84 (2):218-241.
    The aim of this paper is to explicate causal generalizations such as.
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  47. added 2016-02-17
    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, (...)
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  48. added 2016-02-17
    The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory.James M. Joyce - 1999 - Cambridge University Press.
    This book defends the view that any adequate account of rational decision making must take a decision maker's beliefs about causal relations into account. The early chapters of the book introduce the non-specialist to the rudiments of expected utility theory. The major technical advance offered by the book is a 'representation theorem' that shows that both causal decision theory and its main rival, Richard Jeffrey's logic of decision, are both instances of a more general conditional decision theory. The book solves (...)
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  49. added 2016-02-08
    Conditional Utility and its Place in Decision Theory.Paul Weirich - 1980 - Journal of Philosophy 77 (11):702-715.
    Causal decision theory attends to probabilities used to obtain an option's expected utility but for completeness should also attend to utilities of possible outcomes. A suitable formula for an option's expected utility uses a certain type of conditional utility.
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  50. added 2016-02-03
    The Roots of Reason: Philosophical Essays on Rationality, Evolution, and Probability.David Papineau - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
    David Papineau presents a controversial view of human reason, portraying it as a normal part of the natural world, and drawing on the empirical sciences to illuminate its workings. In these six interconnected essays he discusses both theoretical and practical rationality, and shows how evolutionary theory, decision theory, and quantum mechanics offer fresh approaches to some long-standing problems.
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