Justifying conditionalization: Conditionalization maximizes expected epistemic utility

Mind 115 (459):607-632 (2006)
  Copy   BIBTEX


According to Bayesian epistemology, the epistemically rational agent updates her beliefs by conditionalization: that is, her posterior subjective probability after taking account of evidence X, pnew, is to be set equal to her prior conditional probability pold(·|X). Bayesians can be challenged to provide a justification for their claim that conditionalization is recommended by rationality—whence the normative force of the injunction to conditionalize? There are several existing justifications for conditionalization, but none directly addresses the idea that conditionalization will be epistemically rational if and only if it can reasonably be expected to lead to epistemically good outcomes. We apply the approach of cognitive decision theory to provide a justification for conditionalization using precisely that idea. We assign epistemic utility functions to epistemically rational agents; an agent’s epistemic utility is to depend both upon the actual state of the world and on the agent’s credence distribution over possible states. We prove that, under independently motivated conditions, conditionalization is the unique updating rule that maximizes expected epistemic utility.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,642

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Preference Change and Utility Conditionalization.Michael Nielsen - 2022 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 11 (2):101-105.
Shrinking three arguments for conditionalization.Sophie Horowitz - 2021 - Philosophical Perspectives 35 (1):303-319.
Accuracy and ur-prior conditionalization.Nilanjan Das - 2019 - Review of Symbolic Logic 12 (1):62-96.
Epistemic Modal Credence.Simon Goldstein - 2021 - Philosophers' Imprint 21 (26).
Accurate Updating.Ginger Schultheis - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
An Improper Introduction to Epistemic utility theory.Richard Pettigrew - 2012 - In Henk de Regt, Samir Okasha & Stephan Hartmann (eds.), Proceedings of EPSA09. Berlin: Springer. pp. 287--301.
Best Laid Plans: Idealization and the Rationality–Accuracy Bridge.Brett Topey - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.


Added to PP

58 (#94,165)

6 months
579 (#32,345)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

David Wallace
University of Pittsburgh
Hilary Greaves
Oxford University

References found in this work

The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1954 - Wiley Publications in Statistics.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1956 - Philosophy of Science 23 (2):166-166.
The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1954 - Synthese 11 (1):86-89.
Gambling with truth.Isaac Levi - 1967 - Cambridge,: MIT Press.

View all 24 references / Add more references