Most philosophers agree that causal knowledge is essential to decision-making: agents should choose from the available options those that probably cause the outcomes that they want. This book argues against this theory and in favour of evidential or Bayesian decision theory, which emphasises the symptomatic value of options over their causal role. It examines a variety of settings, including economic theory, quantum mechanics and philosophical thought-experiments, where causal knowledge seems to make a practical difference. The arguments make novel use of (...) machinery from other areas of philosophical inquiry, including first-person epistemology and the free will debate. The book also illustrates the applicability of decision theory itself to questions about the direction of time and the special epistemic status of agents. (shrink)
You should rather play hide-and-seek against someone who cannot predict where you hide than against someone who can, as the article illustrates in connection with a high-stakes example. Causal Decision Theory denies this. So Causal Decision Theory is false.
Good’s theorem is the apparent platitude that it is always rational to ‘look before you leap’: to gather information before making a decision when doing so is free. We argue that Good’s theorem is not platitudinous and may be false. And we argue that the correct advice is rather to ‘make your act depend on the answer to a question’. Looking before you leap is rational when, but only when, it is a way to do this.
This paper argues that evidential decision theory is incompatible with options having objective values. If options have objective values, then it should always be rationally permissible for an agent to choose an option if they are certain that the option uniquely maximizes objective value. But, as we show, if options have objective values and evidential decision theory is true, then it is not always rationally permissible for an agent to choose an option if they are certain that the option uniquely (...) maximizes objective value. (shrink)
The essay presents a novel counterexample to Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Its interest is that it generates a case in which CDT violates the very principles that motivated it in the first place. The essay argues that the objection applies to all extant formulations of CDT and that the only way out for that theory is a modification of it that entails incompatibilism. The essay invites the reader to find this consequence of CDT a reason to reject it.
The best justification of time-discounting is roughly that it is rational to care less about your more distant future because there is less of you around to have it. I argue that the standard version of this argument, which treats both psychological continuity and psychological connectedness as reasons to care about your future, can only rationalize an irrational—because exploitable—form of future discounting.
Causal decision theory (CDT) cares only about the effects of a contemplated act, not its causes. The article constructs a case in which CDT consequently recommends a bet that the agent is certain to lose, rather than a bet that she is certain to win. CDT is plainly giving wrong advice in this case. It therefore stands refuted. 1 The Argument2 The Argument in More Detail2.1 The betting mechanism2.2 Soft determinism2.3 The content of P 2.4 The argument again3 The Descriptive (...) Premise3.1 Causal decision theory3.2 Causal decision theory prefers A14 The Normative Premise5 Objections5.1 Table 1 and Table 2 are misleading5.2 The agency theory of causation5.3 The payment mechanism5.4 Newcomb’s problem5.5 Against the normative premise5.6 Drop soft determinism. (shrink)
Opponents of Causal Decision Theory (CDT) sometimes claim (i) that it gives the wrong advice in Egan-style cases, where the CDT-endorsed act brings news that it causes a bad outcome; (ii) that CDT gives the right advice in Newcomb cases, where it is known in advance that the CDT-act causes you to be richer than the alternative. This paper argues that (i) and (ii) cannot both be true if rational preference over acts is transitive.
Evidential Decision Theory is a radical theory of rational decision-making. It recommends that instead of thinking about what your decisions *cause*, you should think about what they *reveal*. This Element explains in simple terms why thinking in this way makes a big difference, and argues that doing so makes for *better* decisions. An appendix gives an intuitive explanation of the measure-theoretic foundations of Evidential Decision Theory.
Probably many people have cyclic preferences: they prefer A to B, B to C and C to A for some objects of choice A, B and C. Recent work has resurrected the objection to cyclic preference that agents possessing them are open to exploitation by means of ‘money pumps’. The paper briefly reviews this work and proposes a general approach to problems of sequential choice that makes cyclic preference immune to exploitation by means of these new mechanisms.
The Humean argument concerning miracles says that one should always think it more likely that anyone who testifies to a miracle is lying or deluded than that the alleged miracle actually occurred, and so should always reject any single report of it. A longstanding and widely accepted objection is that even if this is right, the concurring and non-collusive testimony of many witnesses should make it rational to believe in whatever miracle they all report. I argue that on the contrary, (...) even multiple reports from non-collusive witnesses lack the sort of independence that could make trouble for Hume. (shrink)
This discussion note examines a recent argument for the principle that any counterfactual with true components is itself true. That argument rests upon two widely accepted principles of counterfactual logic to which the paper presents counterexamples. The conclusion speculates briefly upon the wider lessons that philosophers should draw from these examples for the semantics of counterfactuals.
The paper discusses Ian Wells’s recent argument that there is a decision problem in which followers of Evidential Decision Theory end up poorer than followers of Causal Decision Theory despite having the same opportunities for money. It defends Evidential Decision Theory against Wells’s argument, on the following grounds. Wells's has not presented a decision problem in which his main claim is true. Four possible decision problems can be generated from his central example, in each of which followers of Evidential Decision (...) Theory do at least as well as followers of Causal Decision Theory. There is another case in which followers of Causal Decision Theory have the same opportunities for making money but end up worse than followers of Evidential Decision Theory. (shrink)
The best-known argument for Evidential Decision Theory (EDT) is the ‘Why ain’cha rich?’ challenge to rival Causal Decision Theory (CDT). The basis for this challenge is that in Newcomb-like situations, acts that conform to EDT may be known in advance to have the better return than acts that conform to CDT. Frank Arntzenius has recently proposed an ingenious counter argument, based on an example in which, he claims, it is predictable in advance that acts that conform to EDT will do (...) less well than acts that conform to CDT. We raise two objections to Arntzenius’s example. We argue, first, that the example is subtly incoherent, in a way that undermines its effectiveness against EDT; and, second, that the example relies on calculating the average return over an inappropriate population of acts. (shrink)
It is intuitively attractive to think that it makes a difference in Newcomb’s problem whether or not the predictor is infallible, in the sense of being certainly actually correct. This paper argues that that view is irrational and manifests a well-documented cognitive illusion.
Published in 1953, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations had a deeply unsettling effect upon our most basic philosophical ideas concerning thought, sensation, and language. Its claim that philosophical questions of meaning necessitate a close analysis of the way we use language continues to influence Anglo-American philosophy today. However, its compressed and dialogic prose is not always easy to follow. This collection of essays deepens but also challenges our understanding of the work's major themes, such as the connection between meaning and use, the (...) nature of concepts, thought and intentionality, and language games. Bringing together leading philosophers and Wittgenstein scholars, it offers a genuinely critical approach, developing new perspectives and demonstrating Wittgenstein's relevance for contemporary philosophy. This volume will appeal to readers interested in the later Wittgenstein, in addition to those interested in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. (shrink)
Published in 1953, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations had a deeply unsettling effect upon our most basic philosophical ideas concerning thought, sensation and language. Its claim that philosophical questions of meaning necessitate a close analysis of the way we use language continues to influence Anglo-American philosophy today. However, its compressed and dialogic prose is not always easy to follow. This collection of essays deepens but also challenges our understanding of the work's major themes, such as the connection between meaning and use, the (...) nature of concepts, thought and intentionality, and language games. Bringing together leading philosophers and Wittgenstein scholars, it offers a genuinely critical approach and demonstrating Wittgenstein's relevance for contemporary philosophy. This volume will appeal to readers interested in the later Wittgenstein, in addition to those interested in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. (shrink)
The paper argues that on three out of eight possible hypotheses about the EPR experiment we can construct novel and realistic decision problems on which (a) Causal Decision Theory and Evidential Decision Theory conflict (b) Causal Decision Theory and the EPR statistics conflict. We infer that anyone who fully accepts any of these three hypotheses has strong reasons to reject Causal Decision Theory. Finally, we extend the original construction to show that anyone who gives any of the three hypotheses any (...) non-zero credence has strong reasons to reject Causal Decision Theory. However, we concede that no version of the Many Worlds Interpretation (Vaidman, in Zalta, E.N. (ed.), Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy 2014) gives rise to the conflicts that we point out. (shrink)
A resolution must give “seeing it differently” a sense that makes it clear that it is seeing that one is doing differently and not something else that is going on at the same time. The Berlin school of gestalt psychology took the view that alongside the colors and shapes traditionally thought to compose the visual field was a similarly perceptible aspect of “organization”. Wittgenstein considers the possibility of a physiological explanation of aspect change. This chapter details the Wittgenstein's account that (...) it is worth making three general comments about what explaining a psychological concept involves, according to his later philosophy. It focuses on Wittgenstein's writings on sensory aspects and non-sensory aspects. Kant's proposal was that the intuition is of an a priori manifold; but perhaps what is more plausible is that the objects of synoptic vision are not themselves individuals but concepts. (shrink)
The paper argues against Bob Hale's (1999) argument that enquirers must regard some truths as necessary truths. Hale's argument against Quinean skepticism. like many similar arguments due to McFetridge, Wright and others, involves a quantifier shift fallacy.
has offered evidential decision theorists a defence against the charge that they make unintuitive recommendations for cases like Newcomb's Problem. He says that when conditional probabilities are assessed from the agent's point of view, evidential decision theory makes the same recommendation as intuition. I argue that calculating the probabilities in Price's way leads to no recommendation. It condemns the agent to perpetual oscillation between different options. Price's Argument Instability Objections Conclusion.
A choice function C is rational iff: if it allows a path through a sequence of decisions with a particular outcome, then that outcome is amongst the ones that C would have chosen from amongst all the possible outcomes of the sequence. This implies, and it is the strongest definition that implies, that anyone who is irrational could be talked out of their own preferences. It also implies weak but non-vacuous constraints on choices over ends. These do not include alpha (...) or beta. (shrink)
Causal Decision Theory reckons the choice-worthiness of an option to be completely independent of its evidential bearing on its non-effects. But after one has made a choice this bearing is relevant to future decisions. Therefore it is possible to construct problems of sequential choice in which Causal Decision Theory makes a guaranteed loss. So Causal Decision Theory is wrong. The source of the problem is the idea that agents have a special perspective on their own contemplated actions, from which evidential (...) connections that observers can see are either irrelevant or invisible. (shrink)
A decision problem where Causal Decision Theory (CDT) declines a free $1,000, with the foreseeable effect that the agent is $1,000 poorer, and in no other way better off, than if she had taken the offer.
Deductive inference seems to reveal semantic connections between their premise(s) and conclusion that were there all along. This looks inconsistent with Wittgenstein's later views on meaning. The paper argues that W's treatment of aspects suggests a Wittgensteinian treatment of deduction that accommodates the troublesome phenomenon without conceding its force.
Abstract. Suppose that the word of an eyewitness makes it 80% probable that A committed a crime, and that B is drawn from a population in which the incidence rate of that crime is 80%. Many philosophers and legal theorists have held that if this is our only evidence against those parties then (i) we may be justified in finding against A but not against B; but (ii) that doing so incurs a loss in the accuracy of our findings. This (...) paper argues against (ii). It argues that accuracy considerations can motivate taking different attitudes towards individualized and statistical evidence even across cases where they generate the same probability that the defendant is guilty. (shrink)
Saul Kripke is one of the most important and original post-war analytic philosophers. His work has undeniably had a profound impact on the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. Yet his ideas are amongst the most challenging frequently encountered by students of philosophy. In this informative and accessible book, Arif Ahmed provides a clear and thorough account of Kripke's philosophy, his major works and ideas, providing an ideal guide to the important and complex thought of this key philosopher. (...) The book offers a detailed review of his two major works, Naming and Necessity and Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, and explores how Kripke's ideas often seem to overturn widely accepted views and even perceptions of common sense. Geared towards the specific requirements of students who need to reach a sound understanding of Kripke's thought, the book provides a cogent and reliable survey of the nature and significance of Kripke's contribution to philosophy. This is the ideal companion to the study of this most influential and challenging of philosophers. (shrink)
Andy Egan's Smoking Lesion and Psycho Button cases are supposed to be counterexamples to Causal Decision Theory. This paper argues that they are not: more precisely, it argues that if CDT makes the right call in Newcomb's problem then it makes the right call in Egan cases too.
The best-known syntactic account of the logical constants is inferentialism. Following Wittgenstein’s thought that meaning is use, inferentialists argue that meanings of expressions are given by introduction and elimination rules. This is especially plausible for the logical constants, where standard presentations divide inference rules in just this way. But not just any rules will do, as we’ve learnt from Prior’s famous example of tonk, and the usual extra constraint is harmony. Where does this leave identity? It’s usually taken as a (...) logical constant but it doesn’t seem harmonious: standardly, the introduction rule only concerns a subset of the formulas canvassed by the elimination rule. In response, Read [5, 8] and Klev  amend the standard approach. We argue that both attempts fail, in part because of a misconception regarding inferentialism and identity that we aim to identify and clear up. (shrink)
A standard argument for one-boxing in Newcomb’s Problem is ‘Why Ain’cha Rich?’, which emphasizes that one-boxers typically make a million dollars compared to the thousand dollars that two-boxers can expect. A standard reply is the ‘opportunity defence’: the two-boxers who made a thousand never had an opportunity to make more. The paper argues that the opportunity defence is unavailable to anyone who grants that in another case—a Frankfurt case—the agent is deprived of opportunities in the way that advocates of Frankfurt (...) cases typically claim. (shrink)
Evolutionary game theory is ethically neutral: its assumption of ‘rationality’ has nothing to do with selfishness but is in fact entirely compatible with altruism. If altruism has an evolutionary explanation then this fact is of no theological relevance: in particular it is not any sort of evidence of a divine plan etc.
The interesting question about modality is not about its extension, but about its point. Everyone can agree (for instance) that the past is necessary in the Ockhamist sense but not in some ‘modern’ senses, and that the present is necessary in the Ockhamist sense but not in the Scotist sense. But why should it matter? These comments on Pasnau (2020) first set out a simple-minded explication in modern terms of some of these fourteenth-century ideas. Then I take issue with (a) (...) Pasnau’s claim that the necessity of the past has something to do with the structure of ‘narrative history’, and (b) Duns Scotus’s claim that the contingency of the present has something to do with human freedom. (shrink)
Sophisticated ‘tickle’-style defences of Evidential Decision Theory take your motivational state to screen off your act from any state that is causally independent of it, thus ensuring that EDT and CDT converge. That leads to unacceptable instability in cases in which the correct action is obvious. We need a more liberal conception of what the agent controls. It follows that an ordinary deliberator should sometimes consider the past and not only the future to be subject to her present choice.
The paper summarizes the main points of Quine's epistemology and philosophy of language: empiricism, holism, semantic behaviourism, inscrutability of reference, indterminacy of translation and the rejection of analyticity.
Newcomb's Problem is a controversial paradox of decision theory. It is easily explained and easily understood, and there is a strong chance that most of us have actually faced it in some form or other. And yet it has proven as thorny and intractable a puzzle as much older and better-known philosophical problems of consciousness, scepticism and fatalism. It brings into very sharp and focused disagreement several long-standing philosophical theories on practical rationality, on the nature of free will, and on (...) the direction and analysis of causation. This volume introduces readers to the nature of Newcomb's Problem, and ten chapters by leading scholars present the most recent debates around the Problem and analyse its ramifications for decision theory, metaphysics, philosophical psychology and political science. Their chapters highlight the status of Newcomb's Problem as a live and continuing issue in modern philosophy. (shrink)