On an alleged counter-example to causal decision theory

Synthese 173 (2):127-152 (2010)
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Abstract

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 in the dynamics of intentions. It is argued that we can defuse this problem if we hold that decision theory is a theory of rational decision making rather than a theory of rational acts. It is shown how decisions can have epistemic side-effects that are not mediated by the act and that there are cases where one can only bring oneself to perform the best act by updating by imaging rather than by conditioning. This provides a pragmatic argument for updating by imaging rather than by conditioning in these cases

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John Cantwell
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Intention, plans, and practical reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
The Logic of Decision.Richard C. Jeffrey - 1965 - New York, NY, USA: University of Chicago Press.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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