Philosophy of Science 67 (3):13 (2000)

James M. Joyce
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
In The Logic of Decision Richard Jeffrey defends a version of expected utility theory that advises agents to choose acts with an eye to securing evidence for thinking that desirable results will ensue. Proponents of "causal" decision theory have argued that Jeffrey's account is inadequate because it fails to properly discriminate the causal features of acts from their merely evidential properties. Jeffrey's approach has also been criticized on the grounds that it makes it impossible to extract a unique probability/utility representation from a sufficiently rich system of preferences (given a zero and unit for measuring utility). The existence of these problems should not blind us to the fact that Jeffrey's system has advantages that no other decision theory can match: it can be underwritten by a particularly compelling representation theorem proved by Ethan Bolker; and it has a property called partition invariance that every reasonable theory of rational choice must possess. I shall argue that the non-uniqueness problem can be finessed, and that it is impossible to adequately formulate causal decision theory, or any other, without using Jeffrey's theory as one's basic analysis of rational desire
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DOI 10.1086/392804
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