Levi on causal decision theory and the possibility of predicting one's own actions

Philosophical Studies 110 (1):69 - 102 (2002)
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Isaac Levi has long criticized causal decisiontheory on the grounds that it requiresdeliberating agents to make predictions abouttheir own actions. A rational agent cannot, heclaims, see herself as free to choose an actwhile simultaneously making a prediction abouther likelihood of performing it. Levi is wrongon both points. First, nothing in causaldecision theory forces agents to makepredictions about their own acts. Second,Levi's arguments for the ``deliberation crowdsout prediction thesis'' rely on a flawed modelof the measurement of belief. Moreover, theability of agents to adopt beliefs about theirown acts during deliberation is essentialto any plausible account of human agency andfreedom. Though these beliefs play no part inthe rationalization of actions, they arerequired to account for the causalgenesis of behavior. To explain the causes ofactions we must recognize that (a) an agentcannot see herself as entirely free in thematter of A unless she believes herdecision to perform A will cause A,and (b) she cannot come to a deliberatedecision about A unless she adoptsbeliefs about her decisions. FollowingElizabeth Anscombe and David Velleman, I arguethat an agent's beliefs about her own decisionsare self-fulfilling, and that this can beused to explain away the seeming paradoxicalfeatures of act probabilities.



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James M. Joyce
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Citations of this work

Credence: A Belief-First Approach.Andrew Moon & Elizabeth Jackson - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (5):652–669.
Why Take Both Boxes?Jack Spencer & Ian Wells - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (1):27-48.
Tournament decision theory.Abelard Podgorski - 2020 - Noûs 56 (1):176-203.

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References found in this work

Causality.Judea Pearl - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Truth and probability.Frank Ramsey - 2010 - In Antony Eagle (ed.), Philosophy of Probability: Contemporary Readings. New York: Routledge. pp. 52-94.
Epistemic freedom.J. David Velleman - 1989 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 70 (1):73-97.
Can free choice be known.Itzhak Gilboa - 1999 - In Cristina Bicchieri, Richard C. Jeffrey & Brian Skyrms (eds.), The Logic of Strategy. Oxford University Press. pp. 163--174.

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