Conditional desirability: comments on Richard Bradley’s decision theory with a human face

Synthese 198 (9):8413-8431 (2020)
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Richard Bradley’s landmark book Decision Theory with a Human Face makes seminal contributions to nearly every major area of decision theory, as well as most areas of formal epistemology and many areas of semantics. In addition to sketching Bradley’s distinctive semantics for conditional beliefs and desires, I will explain his theory of conditional desire, focusing particularly on his claim that we should not desire events, either positively or negatively, under the supposition that they will occur. I shall argue, to the contrary, that permitting non-trivial desirabilities for events whose occurrence is known or assumed is both more intuitively plausible and more theoretically fruitful than Bradley’s approach. In the course of the discussion I will contrast Bradley’s broadly evidentialist picture of decision theory with my own more orthodox causal approach.



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James M. Joyce
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):201-202.
Decision Theory with a Human Face.Richard Bradley - 2017 - Cambridge University Press.
General Propositions and Causality.Frank Plumpton Ramsey - 1929 - In The Foundations of Mathematics and other Logical Essays. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner. pp. 237-255.

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