Nozick, Ramsey, and symbolic utility

Utilitas 20 (3):301-322 (2008)
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I explore a connection between Robert Nozick's account of decision value/symbolic utility in The Nature of Rationality and F. P. Ramsey's discussion of ethically neutral propositions in his 1926 essay , a discussion that Brian Skyrms in Choice and Chance credits with disclosing deeper foundations for expected utility than the celebrated Theory of Games and Economic Behavior of von Neumann and Morgenstern. Ramsey's recognition of ethically non-neutral propositions is essential to his foundational work, and the similarity of these propositions to symbolic utility helps make the case that the latter belongs to the apparatus that constructs expected utility, rather than being reducible to it or being part of a proposal that can be cheerfully ignored. I conclude that decision value replaces expected utility as the central idea in (normative) decision theory. Expected utility becomes an approximation that is good enough when symbolic utility is not at stake



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The Nature of Rationality.Robert Nozick - 1993 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 186 (1):187-189.
The Logic of Decision.Henry E. Kyberg - 1968 - Philosophical Review 77 (2):250.
Choices: An Introduction to Decision Theory.Michael D. Resnik - 1990 - Behavior and Philosophy 18 (2):73-78.

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