There is strong disagreement about whether indicative conditionals have truth values. In this paper, I present a new argument for the conclusion that indicative conditionals have truth values based on the claim that some true statements entail indicative conditionals. I then address four arguments that conclude that indicative conditionals lack truth values, showing them to be inadequate. Finally, I present further benefits to having a worldly view of conditionals, which supports the assignment of truth values to indicative conditionals. I conclude (...) that certain types of account of indicative conditionals, which have been ignored in the literature partly on the basis of assigning truth values to indicative conditionals, deserve consideration. (shrink)
Within traditional decision theory, common decision principles - e.g. the principle to maximize utility -- generally invoke idealization; they govern ideal agents in ideal circumstances. In Realistic Decision Theory, Paul Weirch adds practicality to decision theory by formulating principles applying to nonideal agents in nonideal circumstances, such as real people coping with complex decisions. Bridging the gap between normative demands and psychological resources, Realistic Decision Theory is essential reading for theorists seeking precise normative decision principles that acknowledge the limits and (...) difficulties of human decision-making. (shrink)
In Decision Space: Multidimensional Utility Analysis, first published in 2001, Paul Weirich increases the power and versatility of utility analysis and in the process advances decision theory. Combining traditional and novel methods of option evaluation into one systematic method of analysis, multidimensional utility analysis is a valuable tool. It provides formulations of important decision principles, such as the principle to maximize expected utility; enriches decision theory in solving recalcitrant decision problems; and provides in particular for the cases in which (...) an expert must make a decision for a group of people. The multiple dimensions of this analysis create a decision space broad enough to accommodate all factors affecting an option's utility. The book will be of interest to advanced students and professionals working in the subject of decision theory, as well as to economists and other social scientists. (shrink)
Weirich examines three competing views entertained by economic theory about the instrumental rationality of decisions: the first says to maximize self-interest, the second to maximize utility, and the third to satisfice, that is, to adopt a satisfactory option. Critics argue that the first view is too narrow, that the second overlooks the benefits of teamwork and planning, and that the third, when carefully formulated, reduces to the second. Weirich defends a refined version of the principle to maximize utility. (...) A broad conception of utility makes it responsive to the motives and benefits critics allege it overlooks. He discusses generalizations of utility theory to extend it to nonquantitative cases and other cases with nonstandard features. (shrink)
We argue that uncomputability and classical scepticism are both re ections of inductive underdetermination, so that Church's thesis and Hume's problem ought to receive equal emphasis in a balanced approach to the philosophy of induction. As an illustration of such an approach, we investigate how uncomputable the predictions of a hypothesis can be if the hypothesis is to be reliably investigated by a computable scienti c method.
In a recent, thought-provoking paper Adam Elga argues against unsharp – e.g., indeterminate, fuzzy and unreliable – probabilities. Rationality demands sharpness, he contends, and this means that decision theories like Levi's, Gärdenfors and Sahlin's, and Kyburg's, though they employ different decision rules, face a common, and serious, problem. This article defends the rule to maximize minimum expected utility against Elga's objection.
The rule to maximize expected utility is intended for decisions where options involve risk. In those decisions the decision maker's attitude toward risk is important, and the rule ought to take it into account. Allais's and Ellsberg's paradoxes, however, suggest that the rule ignores attitudes toward risk. This suggestion is supported by recent psychological studies of decisions. These studies present a great variety of cases where apparently rational people violate the rule because of aversion or attraction to risk. Here I (...) attempt to resolve the issue concerning expected utility and risk. I distinguish two versions of the rule to maximize expected utility. One adopts a broad interpretation of the consequences of an option and has great intuitive appeal. The other adopts a narrow interpretation of the consequences of an option and seems to have certain technical and practical advantages. I contend that the version of the rule that interprets consequences narrowly does indeed neglect attitudes toward risk. That version of the rule excludes the risk involved in an option from the consequences of the option and, contrary to what is usually claimed, cannot make up for this exclusion through adjustments in probability and utility assignments. I construct a new, general argument that establishes this in a rigorous way. On the other hand, I contend that the version of the rule that interprets consequences broadly takes account of attitudes toward risk by counting the risk involved in an option among the consequences of the option. I rebut some objections to this version of the rules, in particular, the objection that the rule lacks practical interest. Drawing upon the literature on 'mean-risk' decision rules, I show that this version of the rule can be used to solve some realistic decision problems. (shrink)
In some decision problems adoption of an option furnishes evidence about the option's consequences. Rational decisions take account of that evidence, although it makes an option's adoption changes the option's expected utility.
Causal decision theory attends to probabilities used to obtain an option's expected utility but for completeness should also attend to utilities of possible outcomes. A suitable formula for an option's expected utility uses a certain type of conditional utility.
Between 1787, and the end of his life in 1832, Bentham turned his attention to the development and application of economic ideas and principles within the general structure of his legislative project. For seventeen years this interest was manifested through a number of books and pamphlets, most of which remained in manuscript form, that develop a distinctive approach to economic questions. Although Bentham was influenced by Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, he (...) neither adopted a Smithian vocabulary for addressing questions of economic principle and policy, nor did he accept many of the distinctive features of Smith's economic theory. One consequence of this was that Bentham played almost no part in the development of the emerging science of political economy in the early nineteenth century. The standard histories of economics all emphasize how little he contributed to the mainstream of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century debate by concentrating attention on his utilitarianism and the psychology of hedonism on which it is premised. Others have argued that the calculating nature of his theory of practical reason reduced the whole legislative project to a crude attempt to apply economics to all aspects of social and political life. Put at its simplest this argument amounts to the erroneous claim that Bentham's science of legislation is reducible to the science of political economy. A different but equally dangerous error would be to argue that because Bentham's conception of the science of legislation comprehends all the basic forms of social relationships, there can be no science of political economy as there is no autonomous sphere of activity governed by the principles of economics. This approach is no doubt attractive from an historical point of view given that the major premise of this argument is true, and that many of Bentham's ‘economic’ arguments are couched in terms of his theory of legislation. Yet it fails to account for the undoubted importance of political economy within Bentham's writings, not just on finance, economic policy, colonies and preventive police, but also in other aspects of his utilitarian public policy such as prison reform, pauper management, and even constitutional reform. All of these works reflect a conception of political economy in its broadest terms. However, this conception of political economy differs in many respects from that of Bentham's contemporaries, and for this reason Bentham's distinctive approach to problems of economics and political economy has largely been misunderstood. (shrink)
The claim that the answers we give to many of the central questions in genethics will depend crucially upon the particular rationality we adopt in addressing them is central to Matti Häyry’s thorough and admirably fair-minded book, Rationality and the Genetic Challenge. That claim implies, of course, that there exists a plurality of rationalities, or discrete styles of reasoning, that can be deployed when considering concrete moral problems. This, indeed, is Häyry’s position. Although he believes that there are certain features (...) definitive of any type of thinking that can accurately be labeled rational, he maintains that nothing about that set of features compels us to conclude that there is a single rationality. What is more, and significantly for the way in which Häyry’s book develops, there is no Archimedean point from which we are licensed to pronounce one flavor of rational deliberation to be intrinsically superior to any other or to be justified to the exclusion of all others. To this belief that “there are many divergent rationalities, all of which can be simultaneously valid,” we can perhaps give the name “the Doctrine of the Plurality of Rationalities” or, for short, “DPR.”. (shrink)
J. Howard Sobel has long been recognized as an important figure in philosophical discussions of rational decision. He has done much to help formulate the concept of causal decision theory. In this volume of essays Sobel explores the Bayesian idea that rational actions maximize expected values, where an action's expected value is a weighted average of its agent's values for its possible total outcomes. Newcomb's Problem and The Prisoner's Dilemma are discussed, and Allais-type puzzles are viewed from the perspective of (...) causal world Bayesianism. The author establishes principles for distinguishing options in decision problems, and studies ways in which perfectly rational causal maximizers can be capable of resolute choices. Sobel also views critically Gauthier's revisionist ideas about maximizing rationality. This collection will be a desideratum for anyone working in the field of rational choice theory, whether in philosophy, economics, political science, psychology or statistics. Howard Sobel's work in decision theory is certainly among the most important, interesting and challenging that is being done by philosophers. (shrink)
Causal decision theory produces decision instability in cases such as Death in Damascus where a decision itself provides evidence concerning the utility of options. Several authors have proposed ways of handling this instability. William Harper (1985 and 1986) advances one of the most elegant proposals. He recommends maximizing causal expected utility among the options that are causally ratifiable. Unfortunately, Harper's proposal imposes certain restrictions; for instance, the restriction that mixed strategies are freely available. To obtain a completely general method of (...) handling decision instability, I step outside the confines of pure causal decision theory. I introduce a new kind of backtracking expected utility and propose maximizing it among the options that are causally ratifiable. In other words, I propose a hierarchical maximization of (1) conditional causal expected utility and (2) the new backtracking expected utility. I support this proposal with some intuitive considerations concerning the distinction between optimality and conditional optimality. And I prove that the proposal yields a solution in every finite decision problem. (shrink)
The options in a decision problem generally have outcomes with common features. Putting aside the common features simplifies deliberations, but the simplification requires a philosophical justification that this book provides.
The conditional probability of h given e is commonly claimed to be equal to the probability that h would have if e were learned. Here I contend that this general claim about conditional probabilities is false. I present a counter-example that involves probabilities of probabilities, a second that involves probabilities of possible future actions, and a third that involves probabilities of indicative conditionals. In addition, I briefly defend these counter-examples against charges that the probabilities they involve are illegitimate.
Groups of people perform acts that are subject to standards of rationality. A committee may sensibly award fellowships, or may irrationally award them in violation of its own policies. A theory of collective rationality defines collective acts that are evaluable for rationality and formulates principles for their evaluation. This book argues that a group's act is evaluable for rationality if it is the products of acts its members fully control. It also argues that such an act is collectively rational if (...) the acts of the group's members are rational. Efficiency is a goal of collective rationality, but not a requirement, except in cases where conditions are ideal for joint action and agents have rationally prepared for joint action.The people engaged in a game of strategy form a group, and the combination of their acts yields a collective act. If their collective act is rational, it constitutes a solution to their game. A theory of collective rationality yields principles concerning solutions to games. One principle requires that a solution constitute an equilibrium among the incentives of the agents in the game. In a cooperative game some agents are coalitions of individuals, and it may be impossible for all agents to pursue all incentives. Because rationality is attainable, the appropriate equilibrium standard for cooperative games requires that agents pursue only incentives that provide sufficient reasons to act. The book's theory of collective rationality supports an attainable equilibrium-standard for solutions to cooperative games and shows that its realization follows from individuals' rational acts.By extending the theory of rationality to groups, this book reveals the characteristics that make an act evaluable for rationality and the way rationality's evaluation of an act responds to the type of control its agent exercises over the act. The book's theory of collective rationality contributes to philosophical projects such as contractarian ethics and to practical projects such as the design of social institutions. (shrink)
How do rational agents coordinate in a single-stage, noncooperative game? Common knowledge of the payoff matrix and of each player's utility maximization among his strategies does not suffice. This paper argues that utility maximization among intentions and then acts generates coordination yielding a payoff-dominant Nash equilibrium. ‡I thank the audience at my paper's presentation at the 2006 PSA meeting for many insightful points. †To contact the author, please write to: Philosophy Department, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211; e-mail: WeirichP@missouri.edu.
To handle epistemic and pragmatic risks, Gärdenfors and Sahlin design a decision procedure for cases in which probabilities are indeterminate. Their procedure steps outside the traditional expected utility framework. Must it do this? Can the traditional framework handle risk? This paper argues that it can. The key is a comprehensive interpretation of an option's possible outcomes. Taking possible outcomes more broadly than Gärdenfors and Sahlin do, expected utility can give risk its due. In particular, Good's decision procedure adequately handles indeterminate (...) probabilities and the risks they generate. (shrink)
With a book as wide ranging and insightful as Barry's Justice as Impartiality, it is perhaps a little churlish to criticize it for paying insufficient attention to one's own particular interests. That said, in what follows I am going to do just that and claim that in an important sense Barry does not take utilitarianism seriously. Utilitarianism does receive some discussion in Barry's book, and in an important section which I will discuss he even appears to concede that utilitarianism provides (...) a rival though ultimately inadequate theory of justice. Nevertheless, utilitarianism is not considered a rival to ‘justice as impartiality’ in the way that ‘justice as mutual advantage’ and ‘justice as reciprocity’ are. One response, and perhaps the only adequate response, would be to construct a rival utilitarian theory. I cannot provide such a theory in this paper, and I certainly would be very cautious about claiming that I could provide such a theory elsewhere. What I want to suggest is that utilitarianism is a genuine third theory to contrast with ‘justice as mutual advantage’ and ‘justice as impartiality’ – ‘justice as reciprocity’ being merely a hybrid of ‘justice as mutual advantage’, at least as Barry presents it. I also want to argue that it poses a more significant challenge to a contractualist theory such as Barry's than his discussion of utilitarianism reveals. (shrink)
One resolution of the St. Petersburg paradox recognizes that a gamble carries a risk sensitive to the gamble's stakes. If aversion to risk increases sufficiently fast as stakes go up, the St. Petersburg gamble has a finite utility.
Standard principles of rational decision assume that an option's utility is both comprehensive and accessible. These features constrain interpretations of an option's utility. This essay presents a way of understanding utility and laws of utility. It explains the relation between an option's utility and its outcome's utility and argues that an option's utility is relative to a specification of the option. Utility's relativity explains how a decision problem's framing affects an option's utility and its rationality even for an agent who (...) is cognitively perfect and lacks only empirical information. The essay rewrites standard laws of utility to accommodate relativization to propositions' specifications. The new laws are generalizations of the standard laws and yield them as special cases. (shrink)
Philosophical logicians proposing theories of rational belief revision have had little to say about whether their proposals assist or impede the agent's ability to reliably arrive at the truth as his beliefs change through time. On the other hand, reliability is the central concern of formal learning theory. In this paper we investigate the belief revision theory of Alchourron, Gardenfors and Makinson from a learning theoretic point of view.
This paper summarizes and rebuts the three standard objections made by social choice theorists against interpersonal utility. The first objection argues that interpersonal utility is measningless. I show that this objection either focuses on irrelevant kinds of meaning or else uses implausible criteria of meaningfulness. The second objection argues that interpersonal utility has no role to play in social choice theory. I show that on the contrary interpersonal utility is useful in formulating goals for social choice. The third objection argues (...) that interpersonal utility in social choice theory can be replaced by clearer notions. I show that the replacements proposed are unsatisfactory in either interpersonal utility's descriptive or explanatory role. My conclusion is that interpersonal utility has a legitimate place in social choice theory. (shrink)
In his most recent book, Philip Pettit presents and defends a “republican” political philosophy that stems from a tradition that includes Cicero, Machiavelli, James Harrington, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Madison. The book provides an interpretation of what is distinctive about republicanism—namely, Pettit claims, its notion of freedom as nondomination. He sketches the history of this notion, and he argues that it entails a unique justification of certain political arrangements and the virtues of citizenship that would make those arrangements possible. Of (...) historical and philosophical interest, he stresses, is the fundamental contrast between freedom as nondomination and slavery. Joseph Priestly, for instance, invoked this contrast in defending the cause of the American Revolution, and in 1769 declared, incredibly, that if the parliament of Great Britain continued to tax the American colonies, “the colonists will be reduced to a state of as complete servitude, as any people of which there is an account in history”. Those opposed to American independence, among them Jeremy Bentham, relied instead on a Hobbesian notion of freedom as noninterference, using it to argue that the colonists were no more interfered with by the British government than were citizens of Britain. Drawing out this contrast, Pettit aims to establish that a republican view of freedom better supports the institutions of a constitutional democracy than does liberalism. His account of the distinguishing characteristics and strengths of republicanism is, however, only partially successful. Neither his case that a republican notion of freedom provides for a more solid defense of democratic institutions and constitutional protections than is available within liberalism, nor his argument that republicanism can better address “private” injustices, is convincing. (shrink)
This book represents a major contribution to game theory. It offers this conception of equilibrium in games: strategic equilibrium. This conception arises from a study of expected utility decision principles, which must be revised to take account of the evidence a choice provides concerning its outcome. The argument for these principles distinguishes reasons for action from incentives, and draws on contemporary analyses of counterfactual conditionals. The book also includes a procedure for identifying strategic equilibria in ideal normal-form games. In synthesizing (...) decision theory and game theory in a powerful way this book will be of particular interest to all philosophers concerned with decision theory and game theory as well as economists and other social scientists. (shrink)
In a decision problem with a dynamic setting there is at least one option whose realization would change the expected utilities of options by changing the probability or utility function with respect to which the expected utilities of options are computed. A familiar example is Newcomb's problem. William Harper proposes a generalization of causal decision theory intended to cover all decision problems with dynamic settings, not just Newcomb's problem. His generalization uses Richard Jeffrey's ideas on ratifiability, and material from game (...) theory on mixed strategies. Harper's proposal has two drawbacks, however. One concerns the mechanism for choosing among ratifiable options. The other concerns the proposal's reliance upon mixed strategies. Here I make another proposal that eliminates these two drawbacks. (shrink)
People can be disgusted by the concrete and by the abstract -- by an object they find physically repellent or by an ideology or value system they find morally abhorrent. Different things will disgust different people, depending on individual sensibilities or cultural backgrounds. In _Yuck!_, Daniel Kelly investigates the character and evolution of disgust, with an emphasis on understanding the role this emotion has come to play in our social and moral lives. Disgust has recently been riding a swell (...) of scholarly attention, especially from those in the cognitive sciences and those in the humanities in the midst of the "affective turn." Kelly proposes a cognitive model that can accommodate what we now know about disgust. He offers a new account of the evolution of disgust that builds on the model and argues that expressions of disgust are part of a sophisticated but largely automatic signaling system that humans use to transmit information about what to avoid in the local environment. He shows that many of the puzzling features of moral repugnance tinged with disgust are by-products of the imperfect fit between a cognitive system that evolved to protect against poisons and parasites and the social and moral issues on which it has been brought to bear. Kelly's account of this emotion provides a powerful argument against invoking disgust in the service of moral justification. (shrink)
Agents face serious obstacles to making optimal decisions. For instance, their cognitive limits stand in the way. John Pollock’s book, Thinking about Acting , suggests many ways of revising decision principles to accommodate human limits and to direct limited, artificial agents. The book’s main proposal is to replace optimization, or expected-utility maximization, with locally global planning. This essay describes optimization and locally global planning, and then argues that optimization among salient options has the virtues of locally global planning without certain (...) drawbacks. Although it does not endorse locally global planning, it recommends that decision theory incorporate some of the book’s ideas about settling for improvements when optimization among all options is unrealistic. (shrink)
A number of authors have argued recently that the content of perceptual experience can, and even must, be characterized in conceptual terms. Their claim, more precisely, is that every perceptual experience is such that, of necessity, its content is constituted entirely by concepts possessed by the subject having the experience. This is a surprising result. For it seems reasonable to think that a subject’s experiences could be richer and more fine-grained than his conceptual repertoire; that a subject might be able, (...) for example, to discriminate in experience more shades of colors than he has color concepts. The key move in their argument, therefore, is to articulate the conceptual content of experience using demonstrative, instead of general, concepts. For instance, these authors argue that the content of my perceptual experience of a particular shade of green is properly characterized in terms of the concept expressed by the linguistic utterance “that shade”. Even if I don’t possess a general concept for the shade I’m seeing—a concept of the kind typically expressed using color names like ‘chartreuse’ or ‘lime’—nevertheless, these authors argue, the content of the experience can still be characterized conceptually using a demonstrative concept that I do possess. (shrink)