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H. Orri Stefansson
Stockholm University
  1. Belief Revision for Growing Awareness.Katie Steele & H. Orri Stefansson - forthcoming - Mind.
    The Bayesian maxim for rational learning could be described as conservative change from one probabilistic belief or credence function to another in response to newinformation. Roughly: ‘Hold fixed any credences that are not directly affected by the learning experience.’ This is precisely articulated for the case when we learn that some proposition that we had previously entertained is indeed true (the rule of conditionalisation). But can this conservative-change maxim be extended to revising one’s credences in response to entertaining propositions or (...)
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  2. What Is Risk Aversion?H. Orri Stefánsson & Richard Bradley - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):77-102.
    According to the orthodox treatment of risk preferences in decision theory, they are to be explained in terms of the agent's desires about concrete outcomes. The orthodoxy has been criticised both for conflating two types of attitudes and for committing agents to attitudes that do not seem rationally required. To avoid these problems, it has been suggested that an agent's attitudes to risk should be captured by a risk function that is independent of her utility and probability functions. The main (...)
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  3. Counterfactual Desirability.Richard Bradley & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2):485-533.
    The desirability of what actually occurs is often influenced by what could have been. Preferences based on such value dependencies between actual and counterfactual outcomes generate a class of problems for orthodox decision theory, the best-known perhaps being the so-called Allais Paradox. In this paper we solve these problems by extending Richard Jeffrey's decision theory to counterfactual prospects, using a multidimensional possible-world semantics for conditionals, and showing that preferences that are sensitive to counterfactual considerations can still be desirability maximising. We (...)
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  4. Population Ethics Under Risk.Gustaf Arrhenius & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    Population axiology concerns how to evaluate populations in terms of their moral goodness, that is, how to order populations by the relations “is better than” and “is as good as”. The task has been to find an adequate theory about the moral value of states of affairs where the number of people, the quality of their lives, and their identities may vary. So far, this field has largely ignored issues about uncertainty and the conditions that have been discussed mostly pertain (...)
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  5. Fair Chance and Modal Consequentialism.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2015 - Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):371-395.
    This paper develops a Multidimensional Decision Theory and argues that it better captures ordinary intuitions about fair distribution of chances than classical decision theory. The theory is an extension of Richard Jeffrey’s decision theory to counterfactual prospects and is a form of Modal Consequentialism, according to which the value of actual outcomes often depends on what could have been. Unlike existing versions of modal consequentialism, the multidimensional decision theory allows us to explicitly model the desirabilistic dependencies between actual and counterfactual (...)
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  6.  63
    What is "Real" in Probabilism?H. Orri Stefánsson - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):573-587.
    This paper defends two related claims about belief. First, the claim that unlike numerical degrees of belief, comparative beliefs are primitive and psychologically real. Second, the claim that the fundamental norm of Probabilism is not that numerical degrees of belief should satisfy the probability axioms, but rather that comparative beliefs should satisfy certain constraints.
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  7.  53
    On the Ratio Challenge for Comparativism.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):380-390.
    This paper discusses a challenge for Comparativists about belief, who hold that numerical degree of belief (in particular, subjective probability) is a useful fiction, unlike comparative belief, which they regard as real. The challenge is to make sense of claims like ‘I am twice as confident in A as in B’ in terms of comparative belief only. After showing that at least some Comparativists can meet this challenge, I discuss implications for Zynda’s [2000] and Stefánsson’s [2017] defences of Comparativism.
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  8.  59
    Desires, Beliefs and Conditional Desirability.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2014 - Synthese 191 (16):4019-4035.
    Does the desirability of a proposition depend on whether it is true? Not according to the Invariance assumption, held by several notable philosophers. The Invariance assumption plays an important role in David Lewis’ famous arguments against the so-called Desire-as-Belief thesis (DAB), an anti-Humean thesis according to which a rational agent desires a proposition exactly to the degree that she believes the proposition to be desirable. But the assumption is of interest independently of Lewis’ arguments, for instance since both Richard Jeffrey (...)
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  9. Is risk aversion irrational? Examining the “fallacy” of large numbers.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2020 - Synthese 197 (10):4425-4437.
    A moderately risk averse person may turn down a 50/50 gamble that either results in her winning $200 or losing $100. Such behaviour seems rational if, for instance, the pain of losing $100 is felt more strongly than the joy of winning $200. The aim of this paper is to examine an influential argument that some have interpreted as showing that such moderate risk aversion is irrational. After presenting an axiomatic argument that I take to be the strongest case for (...)
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  10.  34
    Gambling with Death.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2020 - Topoi 39 (2):271-281.
    Orthodox expected utility theory imposes too stringent restrictions on what attitudes to risk one can rationally hold. Focusing on a life-and-death gamble, I identify as the main culprit the theory’s Linearity property, according to which the utility of a particular change in the risk of a bad outcome is independent of the original level of risk. Finally, I argue that a recent non-standard Bayesian decision theory, that does not have this property, handles risky gambles better than the orthodox theory.
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  11. Decision Theory.Katie Steele & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2015 - In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  12.  68
    Epistemic Transformation and Rational Choice.Krister Bykvist & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2017 - Economics and Philosophy 33 (1):125-138.
    L. A. Paul has recently argued that the epistemically transformative nature of certain experiences makes it impossible to rationally decide whether to have the experience or not. We start by explaining why, contrary to what Paul claims, epistemically transformative experiences do not pose a general problem for the possibility of rational choice. However, we show there is a particular type of agent for whom the problem identified by Paul does arise. With this agent in mind, we examine Paul’s own suggestion (...)
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  13.  25
    Risk and Rationality. [REVIEW]H. Orri Stefánsson - 2014 - Economics and Philosophy 30 (2):252-260.
  14.  11
    Against the de Minimis Principle.Björn Lundgren & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2020 - Risk Analysis 40 (5):908-914.
    According to the class of de minimis decision principles, risks can be ignored (or at least treated very differently from other risks) if the risk is sufficiently small. In this article, we argue that a de minimis threshold has no place in a normative theory of decision making, because the application of the principle will either recommend ignoring risks that should not be ignored (e.g., the sure death of a person) or it cannot be used by ordinary bounded and information-constrained (...)
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  15. Calibration Dilemmas in the Ethics of Distribution.Jacob M. Nebel & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    This paper presents a new kind of problem in the ethics of distribution. The problem takes the form of several "calibration dilemmas," in which intuitively reasonable aversion to small-stakes inequalities requires leading theories of distribution to recommend intuitively unreasonable aversion to large-stakes inequalities—e.g., inequalities in which half the population would gain an arbitrarily large quantity of well-being or resources. We first lay out a series of such dilemmas for a family of broadly prioritarian theories. We then consider a widely endorsed (...)
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  16. Ambiguity Aversion Behind the Veil of Ignorance.H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Synthese:1-24.
    The veil of ignorance argument was used by John C. Harsanyi to defend Utilitarianism and by John Rawls to defend the absolute priority of the worst off. In a recent paper, Lara Buchak revives the veil of ignorance argument, and uses it to defend an intermediate position between Harsanyi's and Rawls' that she calls Relative Prioritarianism. None of these authors explore the implications of allowing that agent's behind the veil are averse to ambiguity. Allowing for aversion to ambiguity---which is both (...)
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  17.  39
    A Lewisian Trilemma.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2014 - Ratio 27 (3):262-275.
    According to one reading of the thesis of Humean Supervenience, most famously defended by David Lewis, certain ‘fundamental’ (non-modal) facts entail all there is but do not supervene on less fundamental facts. However, in this paper I prove that it follows from Lewis' possible world semantics for counterfactuals, in particular his Centring condition, that all non-modal facts supervene on counterfactuals. Humeans could respond to this result by either giving up Centring or abandoning the idea that the most fundamental facts do (...)
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  18. Catastrophic Risk.H. Orri Stefánsson - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (11):1-11.
    Catastrophic risk raises questions that are not only of practical importance, but also of great philosophical interest, such as how to define catastrophe and what distinguishes catastrophic outcomes from non-catastrophic ones. Catastrophic risk also raises questions about how to rationally respond to such risks. How to rationally respond arguably partly depends on the severity of the uncertainty, for instance, whether quantitative probabilistic information is available, or whether only comparative likelihood information is available, or neither type of information. Finally, catastrophic risk (...)
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  19. On the Limits of the Precautionary Principle.H. Orri Stefansson - 2019 - Risk Analysis 39 (6):1204-1222.
    The Precautionary Principle (PP) is an influential principle of risk management. It has been widely introduced into environmental legislation, and it plays an important role in most international environmental agreements. Yet, there is little consensus on precisely how to understand and formulate the principle. In this paper I prove some impossibility results for two plausible formulations of the PP as a decision-rule. These results illustrate the difficulty in making the PP consistent with the acceptance of any trade-offs between catastrophic risks (...)
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  20.  57
    Review of A. Ahmed, Evidence, Decision and Causality. [REVIEW]H. Orri Stefánsson - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (1):159-169.