Decision Theory without Representation Theorems

Philosophers' Imprint 14 (2014)
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Naive versions of decision theory take probabilities and utilities as primitive and use expected value to give norms on rational decision. However, standard decision theory takes rational preference as primitive and uses it to construct probability and utility. This paper shows how to justify a version of the naive theory, by taking dominance as the most basic normatively required preference relation, and then extending it by various conditions under which agents should be indifferent between acts. The resulting theory can make all the decisions of classical expected utility theory, plus more in cases where expected utilities are infinite or undefined. Although the theory requires similarly strong assumptions to classical expected utility theory, versions of the theory can be developed with slightly weaker assumptions, without having to prove a new representation theorem for the weaker theory. This alternate foundation is particularly useful if probability is prior to preference, as suggested by the recent program to base probabilism on accuracy and alethic considerations rather than pragmatic ones



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Kenny Easwaran
University of California, Irvine

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Counterfactual Desirability.Richard Bradley & H. Orii Stefansson - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2):485-533.

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