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Luc Bovens
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  1. Bayesian Epistemology.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2003 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Probabilistic models have much to offer to philosophy. We continually receive information from a variety of sources: from our senses, from witnesses, from scientific instruments. When considering whether we should believe this information, we assess whether the sources are independent, how reliable they are, and how plausible and coherent the information is. Bovens and Hartmann provide a systematic Bayesian account of these features of reasoning. Simple Bayesian Networks allow us to model alternative assumptions about the nature of the information sources. (...)
  2. The Ethics of Nudge.Luc Bovens - 2008 - In Mats J. Hansson & Till Grüne-Yanoff (eds.), Preference Change: Approaches from Philosophy, Economics and Psychology. Berlin: Springer, Theory and Decision Library A. pp. 207-20.
    In their recently published book Nudge (2008) Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein (T&S) defend a position labelled as ‘libertarian paternalism’. Their thinking appeals to both the right and the left of the political spectrum, as evidenced by the bedfellows they keep on either side of the Atlantic. In the US, they have advised Barack Obama, while, in the UK, they were welcomed with open arms by the David Cameron's camp (Chakrabortty 2008). I will consider the following questions. What (...)
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  3. 'From Each According to Ability; To Each According to Needs': Origin, Meaning, and Development of Socialist Slogans.Luc Bovens & Adrien Lutz - forthcoming - History of Political Economy.
    There are three slogans in the history of Socialism that are very close in wording, viz. the famous Cabet-Blanc-Marx slogan: "From each according to his ability; To each according to his needs"; the earlier Saint-Simon-Pecqueur slogan: "To each according to his ability; To each according to his works"; and the later slogan in Stalin’s Soviet Constitution: "From each according to his ability; To each according to his work." We will consider the following questions regarding these slogans: a) What are the (...)
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  4. Why There Cannot Be a Single Probabilistic Measure of Coherence.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2005 - Erkenntnis 63 (3):361-374.
    Bayesian Coherence Theory of Justification or, for short, Bayesian Coherentism, is characterized by two theses, viz. (i) that our degree of confidence in the content of a set of propositions is positively affected by the coherence of the set, and (ii) that coherence can be characterized in probabilistic terms. There has been a longstanding question of how to construct a measure of coherence. We will show that Bayesian Coherentism cannot rest on a single measure of coherence, but requires a vector (...)
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  5. Democratic Answers to Complex Questions – An Epistemic Perspective.Luc Bovens & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2006 - Synthese 150 (1):131-153.
    This paper addresses a problem for theories of epistemic democracy. In a decision on a complex issue which can be decomposed into several parts, a collective can use different voting procedures: Either its members vote on each sub-question and the answers that gain majority support are used as premises for the conclusion on the main issue, or the vote is conducted on the main issue itself. The two procedures can lead to different results. We investigate which of these procedures is (...)
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  6.  94
    Coherentism, Reliability and Bayesian Networks.Luc Bovens & EJ Olsson - 2000 - Mind 109 (436):685-719.
    The coherentist theory of justification provides a response to the sceptical challenge: even though the independent processes by which we gather information about the world may be of dubious quality, the internal coherence of the information provides the justification for our empirical beliefs. This central canon of the coherence theory of justification is tested within the framework of Bayesian networks, which is a theory of probabilistic reasoning in artificial intelligence. We interpret the independence of the information gathering processes (IGPs) in (...)
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  7. Solving the Riddle of Coherence.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2003 - Mind 112 (448):601-634.
    A coherent story is a story that fits together well. This notion plays a central role in the coherence theory of justification and has been proposed as a criterion for scientific theory choice. Many attempts have been made to give a probabilistic account of this notion. A proper account of coherence must not start from some partial intuitions, but should pay attention to the role that this notion is supposed to play within a particular context. Coherence is a property of (...)
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  8. The Value of Hope.Luc Bovens - 1999 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (3):667-681.
    Hope obeys Aristotle's doctrine of the mean: one should neither hope too much, nor too little. But what determines what constitutes too much and what constitutes too little for a particular person at a particular time? The sceptic presents an argument to the effect that it is never rational to hope. An attempt to answer the sceptic leads us in different directions. Decision-theoretic and preference-theoretic arguments support the instrumental value of hope. An investigation into the nature of hope permits us (...)
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  9. The Preface, the Lottery, and the Logic of Belief.James Hawthorne & Luc Bovens - 1999 - Mind 108 (430):241-264.
    John Locke proposed a straightforward relationship between qualitative and quantitative doxastic notions: belief corresponds to a sufficiently high degree of confidence. Richard Foley has further developed this Lockean thesis and applied it to an analysis of the preface and lottery paradoxes. Following Foley's lead, we exploit various versions of these paradoxes to chart a precise relationship between belief and probabilistic degrees of confidence. The resolutions of these paradoxes emphasize distinct but complementary features of coherent belief. These features suggest principles that (...)
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  10.  71
    Secular Hopes in the Face of Death.Luc Bovens - forthcoming - In Rochelle Green (ed.), Theories of Hope: Exploring Alternative Affective Dimensions of Human Experience. Lexington Press.
    I discuss various questions concerning secular hopes in the face of death, that is, hopes other than the hope for eternal life. What is it to hope that one has lived a worthwhile life? Is there some contemporary analogue to Aristotle claim that death on the battlefield is the most desirable death? “After me the downfall” said Louis XV—what interest should we take in the world in which we are no more? In her poem “Song” Christina Rossetti asks her beloved (...)
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  11.  29
    Behavioural Public Policies and Charitable Giving.Luc Bovens - 2018 - Behavioural Public Policy 2 (2):168-173.
    Some of the challenges in Sanders et al. (this issue) can be aptly illustrated by means of charity nudges, that is, nudges designed to increase charitable donations. These nudges raise many ethical questions. First, Oxfam’s triptychs with suggested donations are designed to increase giving. If successful, do our actions match ex ante or ex post preferences? Does this make a difference to the autonomy of the donor? Second, the Behavioural Insights Team conducted experiments using social networks to nudge people to (...)
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  12. An Impossibility Result for Coherence Rankings.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 128 (1):77-91.
    If we receive information from multiple independent and partially reliable information sources, then whether we are justified to believe these information items is affected by how reliable the sources are, by how well the information coheres with our background beliefs and by how internally coherent the information is. We consider the following question. Is coherence a separable determinant of our degree of belief, i.e. is it the case that the more coherent the new information is, the more justified we are (...)
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  13.  42
    Believing More, Risking Less: On Coherence, Truth and Non-Trivial Extensions.Luc Bovens & Erik J. Olsson - 2002 - Erkenntnis 57 (2):137 - 150.
    If you believe more things you thereby run a greater risk of being in error than if you believe fewer things. From the point of view of avoiding error, it is best not to believe anything at all, or to have very uncommitted beliefs. But considering the fact that we all in fact do entertain many specific beliefs, this recommendation is obviously in flagrant dissonance with our actual epistemic practice. Let us call the problem raised by this apparent conflict the (...)
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  14. Monty Hall Drives a Wedge Between Judy Benjamin and the Sleeping Beauty: A Reply to Bovens.Luc Bovens & Jose-Luis Ferreira - 2010 - Analysis 70 (3):473 - 481.
    In “Judy Benjamin is a Sleeping Beauty” (2010) Bovens recognises a certain similarity between the Sleeping Beauty (SB) and the Judy Benjamin (JB). But he does not recognise the dissimilarity between underlying protocols (as spelled out in Shafer (1985). Protocols are expressed in conditional probability tables that spell out the probability of coming to learn various propositions conditional on the actual state of the world. The principle of total evidence requires that we not update on the content of the proposition (...)
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  15.  36
    The Ethics of Making Risky Decisions for Others.Luc Bovens - forthcoming - In Mark D. White (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics. Oxford University Press.
    Utilitarianism, it has been said, is not sensitive to the distribution of welfare. In making risky decisions for others there are multiple sensitivities at work. I present examples of risky decision-making involving drug allocations, charitable giving, breast-cancer screening and C-sections. In each of these examples there is a different sensitivity at work that pulls away from the utilitarian prescription. Instances of saving fewer people at a greater risk to many is more complex because there are two distributional sensitivities at work (...)
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  16.  38
    Commentary: Why Couldn't I Be Nudged to Like a Big Mac.Luc Bovens - 2013 - Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (8):495-6.
    In this commentary on Yashar Saghai's article "Salvaging the Concept of Nudge" (JME 2013) I discuss his distinction between a 'prod' (which is 'substantially controlling') and a 'nudge' (which is ‘substantially non-controlling’).
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  17. Judy Benjamin is a Sleeping Beauty.Luc Bovens - 2010 - Analysis 70 (1):23-26.
    I argue that van Fraassen's Judy Benjamin Problem and Elga's Sleeping Beauty Problem have the same structure.
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  18. Selection Under Uncertainty: Affirmative Action at Shortlisting Stage.Luc Bovens - 2016 - Mind 125 (498):421-437.
    Choice often proceeds in two stages: We construct a shortlist on the basis of limited and uncertain information about the options and then reduce this uncertainty by examining the shortlist in greater detail. The goal is to do well when making a final choice from the option set. I argue that we cannot realise this goal by constructing a ranking over the options at shortlisting stage which determines of each option whether it is more or less worthy of being included (...)
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  19.  95
    Must I Be Forgiven?Luc Bovens - 2009 - Analysis 69 (2):227-233.
    Why does an offender find it upsetting when the victim of their wrongdoing refuses to accept their apologies? Why do they find it upsetting when the victim is unwilling to grant them the forgiveness that they are asking for? I present an account of apologising and accepting apologies that can explain why this distress into an apt emotion.
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  20. Too Odd (Not) to Be True? A Reply to Olsson.Luc Bovens, Branden Fitelson, Stephan Hartmann & Josh Snyder - 2002 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (4):539-563.
    Corroborating Testimony, Probability and Surprise’, Erik J. Olsson ascribes to L. Jonathan Cohen the claims that if two witnesses provide us with the same information, then the less probable the information is, the more confident we may be that the information is true (C), and the stronger the information is corroborated (C*). We question whether Cohen intends anything like claims (C) and (C*). Furthermore, he discusses the concurrence of witness reports within a context of independent witnesses, whereas the witnesses in (...)
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  21. Bayesian Networks and the Problem of Unreliable Instruments.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 69 (1):29-72.
    We appeal to the theory of Bayesian Networks to model different strategies for obtaining confirmation for a hypothesis from experimental test results provided by less than fully reliable instruments. In particular, we consider (i) repeated measurements of a single test consequence of the hypothesis, (ii) measurements of multiple test consequences of the hypothesis, (iii) theoretical support for the reliability of the instrument, and (iv) calibration procedures. We evaluate these strategies on their relative merits under idealized conditions and show some surprising (...)
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  22.  86
    A Lockean Defense of Grandfathering Emission Rights.Luc Bovens - 2011 - In Denis G. Arnold (ed.), The Ethics of Global Climate Change. Cambridge University Press. pp. 124-144.
    I investigate whether any plausible moral arguments can be made for ‘grandfathering’ emission rights (that is, for setting emission targets for developed countries in line with their present or past emission levels) on the basis of a Lockean theory of property rights.
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  23. “P and I Will Believe That Not-P”: Diachronic Constraints on Rational Belief.Luc Bovens - 1995 - Mind 104 (416):737-760.
    I provide a taxonomy of the various circumstances under which one might reasonably say "P and I will believe that not-P" or violate the Reflection Principle.
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  24. Child Euthanasia: Should We Just Not Talk About It?Luc Bovens - 2015 - Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (8):630-634.
    Belgium has recently extended its euthanasia legislation to minors, making it the first legislation in the world that does not specify any age limit. I consider two strands in the opposition to this legislation. First, I identify five arguments in the public debate to the effect that euthanasia for minors is somehow worse than euthanasia for adults—viz. arguments from weightiness, capability of discernment, pressure, sensitivity and sufficient palliative care—and show that these arguments are wanting. Second, there is another position in (...)
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  25. Evaluating Risky Prospects: The Distribution View.Luc Bovens - 2015 - Analysis 75 (2):243-253.
    Risky prospects represent policies that impose different types of risks on multiple people. I present an example from food safety. A utilitarian following Harsanyi's Aggregation Theorem ranks such prospects according to their mean expected utility or the expectation of the social utility. Such a ranking is not sensitive to any of four types of distributional concerns. I develop a model that lets the policy analyst rank prospects relative to the distributional concerns that she considers fitting in the context at hand. (...)
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  26.  50
    The Ethics of Dieselgate.Luc Bovens - 2016 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 40 (1):262-283.
    I investigate what, if anything, can be said in defense of Volkswagen's decision to install a cheat device in their diesel engines to evade NOx emission testing.
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  27. Apologies.Luc Bovens - 2008 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (1pt3):219-239.
    There is a cognitive, an affective, a conative, and an attitudinal component to a genuine apology. In discussing these components, I address the following questions. Might apologies be due for non-culpable actions? Might apologies be due for choices in moral dilemmas? What is the link between sympathy, remorse and making amends? Is it meaningful for resilient akratics to apologize? How much moral renewal is required when one apologizes? Why should apologies be offered in a humble manner? And is there some (...)
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  28.  29
    Contrary to the Claims of German Politicians, Germany is Not Taking on More Than its Fair Share of Refugees.Luc Bovens & Jane von Rabenau - 2014 - LSE European Politics and Policy (EUROPP) Blog.
    The extent to which EU countries take on their ‘fair share’ of asylum seekers is a contentious issue. Luc Bovens and Jane von Rabenau write on concern within Germany that the country is taking on a higher burden than other EU states. They argue that when compared on a per capita basis with similar EU countries, Germany performs relatively poorly in terms of acceptances for new refugees. Where Germany performs better is with respect to the size of the existing refugee (...)
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  29.  16
    Vergiffenis in Elsschots Het Been: Boorman vs. Laarmans.Luc Bovens - 2008 - Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 100 (4).
    In the novel "Het Been" by the Flemish writer Willem Elsschot. In the novel, a businessman becomes obsessive over the fact that a victim of his unscrupulous business practices refuses to forgive him. This raises the following questions: Why does one find it upsetting when the victim of one's wrongdoing refuses to accept our apologies? Why does one find it upsetting when the victim is unwilling to grant us the forgiveness that we are asking for?
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  30. Bets on Hats: On Dutch Books Against Groups, Degrees of Belief as Betting Rates, and Group-Reflection.Luc Bovens & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2011 - Episteme 8 (3):281-300.
    The Puzzle of the Hats is a puzzle in social epistemology. It describes a situation in which a group of rational agents with common priors and common goals seems vulnerable to a Dutch book if they are exposed to different information and make decisions independently. Situations in which this happens involve violations of what might be called the Group-Reflection Principle. As it turns out, the Dutch book is flawed. It is based on the betting interpretation of the subjective probabilities, but (...)
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  31.  16
    BLOG: The Last Hope - Part 1: A Worthwhile Life.Luc Bovens - 2017 - LSE Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method Blog.
    In the first in this three-part series, Luc Bovens looks at death, immortality and the worthwhile life.
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  32.  15
    BLOG: The Last Hope Part 2: Dying Well and a World Without Me.Luc Bovens - 2017 - LSE Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method Blog.
    In the second part of this series, Luc Bovens looks at a good death and a future without oneself.
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  33.  97
    The Doctrinal Paradox and the Mixed-Motivation Problem.Luc Bovens - 2006 - Analysis 66 (1):35-39.
    There are two seemingly unrelated paradoxes of democracy. The older one is the doctrinal paradox or the discursive dilemma. or a comprehensive bibliography, see List 1995. The younger one is the mixed motivation problem introduced by Jonathan Wolff (1994) in this journal. In the mixed motivation problem, we have voters with mixed Benthamite and Rousseauian motivations who reach a majority on an issue that is neither in the self-interest of a majority of the voters, nor considered to be conducive to (...)
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  34. Coherence, Belief Expansion and Bayesian Networks.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2000 - In BaralC (ed.), Proceedings of the 8th International Workshop on Non-Monotonic Reasoning, NMR'2000.
    We construct a probabilistic coherence measure for information sets which determines a partial coherence ordering. This measure is applied in constructing a criterion for expanding our beliefs in the face of new information. A number of idealizations are being made which can be relaxed by an appeal to Bayesian Networks.
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  35.  99
    Sour Grapes and Character Planning.Luc Bovens - 1992 - Journal of Philosophy 89 (2):57-78.
    I argue that character planning differs from sour grapes in that the former but not the latter leaves the agent with a coherent preference structure.
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  36. The Tragedy of the Commons as a Voting Game.Luc Bovens - 2015 - In Martin Peterson (ed.), The Prisoner’s Dilemma. Classic philosophical arguments. Cambridge University Press.
    The Tragedy of the Commons is often associated with an n-person Prisoner’s Dilemma. But it can also have the structure of an n-person Game of Chicken, an Assurance Game, or of a Voting Games (or a Three-in-a-Boat Game). I present three historical stories that document tragedies of the commons, as presented in Aristotle, Mahanarayan and Hume and argue that the descriptions of these historical cases align better with Voting Games than with any other games.
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  37.  23
    The Rhythm Method and Embryonic Death.Luc Bovens - 2006 - Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (6):355-356.
    Some proponents of the pro-life movement argue against morning after pills, IUDs, and contraceptive pills on grounds of a concern for causing embryonic death. What has gone unnoticed, however, is that the pro-life line of argumentation can be extended to the rhythm method of contraception as well. Given certain plausible empirical assumptions, the rhythm method may well be responsible for a much higher number of embryonic deaths than some other contraceptive techniques.
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  38. Nancy Cartwright’s Philosophy of Science.Luc Bovens, Carl Hoefer & Stephan Hartmann (eds.) - 2008 - Routledge.
    Nancy Cartwright is one of the most distinguished and influential contemporary philosophers of science. Despite the profound impact of her work, there is neither a systematic exposition of Cartwright’s philosophy of science nor a collection of articles that contains in-depth discussions of the major themes of her philosophy. This book is devoted to a critical assessment of Cartwright’s philosophy of science and contains contributions from Cartwright's champions and critics. Broken into three parts, the book begins by addressing Cartwright's views on (...)
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  39. Concerns for the Poorly Off in Ordering Risky Prospects.Luc Bovens - 2015 - Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):397-429.
    The Distribution View provides a model that integrates four distributional concerns in the evaluation of risky prospects. Starting from these concerns, we can generate an ordering over a set of risky prospects, or, starting from an ordering, we can extract a characterization of the underlying distributional concerns. Separability of States and/or Persons for multiple-person risky prospects, for single-person risky prospects and for multiple-person certain prospects are discussed within the model. The Distribution View sheds light on public health policies and provides (...)
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  40. The Two Faces of Akratics Anonymous.Luc Bovens - 1999 - Analysis 59 (4):230–236.
    I argue that by constructing an identity of Bohemian whim and spontaneity one can make what was previously an akratic action into a fully rational action, since in performing the action, one asserts one identity.
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  41.  35
    A Dutch Book for Group Decision-Making?Luc Bovens & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2009 - In Benedikt Löwe, Eric Pacuit & Jan-Willem Romeijn (eds.), Foundations of the Formal Sciences Vi: Probabilistic Reasoning and Reasoning With Probabilities. Studies in Logic. London UK: College Publication. pp. 91-101.
    The Puzzle of the Hats is a betting arrangement which seems to show that a Dutch book can be made against a group of rational players with common priors who act in the common interest and have full trust in the other players’ rationality. But we show that appearances are misleading—no such Dutch book can be made. There are four morals. First, what can be learned from the puzzle is that there is a class of situations in which credences and (...)
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  42.  15
    ‘Interview’, Probability and Statistics: 5 Questions.Luc Bovens - 2010 - In Vincent Hendricks & Alan Hajek (eds.), Probability and Statistics: 5 Questions. XX: Automatic Press. pp. 13-28.
  43.  74
    Evaluating Life or Death Prospects.Luc Bovens & Marc Fleurbaey - 2012 - Economics and Philosophy 28 (2):217-249.
    We consider a special set of risky prospects in which the outcomes are either life or death. There are various alternatives to the utilitarian objective of minimizing the expected loss of lives in such prospects. We start off with the two-person case with independent risks and construct taxonomies of ex ante and ex post evaluations for such prospects. We examine the relationship between the ex ante and the ex post in this restrictive framework: There are more possibilities to respect ex (...)
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  44.  7
    The Puzzle of the Hats.Luc Bovens & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2010 - Synthese 172 (1):57-78.
    The Puzzle of the Hats is a betting arrangement which seems to show that a Dutch book can be made against a group of rational players with common priors who act in the common interest and have full trust in the other players’ rationality. But we show that appearances are misleading—no such Dutch book can be made. There are four morals. First, what can be learned from the puzzle is that there is a class of situations in which credences and (...)
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  45.  78
    Supervenience and Moral Realism.Luc Bovens & Dalia Drai - 1999 - Philosophia 27 (1-2):241-245.
    Blackburn argues that moral supervenience in conjunction with the lack of entailments from naturalistic to moral judgments poses a challenge to moral realism. Klagge and McFetridge try to avert the challenge by appealing to synthetically necessary connections between natural and moral properties. Blackburn rejoins that, even if there are such connections, the challenge still remains. We remain agnostic on the question whether there are such connections, but argue against Blackburn that, if there are indeed such connections, then the challenge to (...)
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  46.  74
    Voting Procedures for Complex Collective Decisions. An Epistemic Perspective.Luc Bovens & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2004 - Ratio Juris 17 (2):241-258.
    Suppose a committee or a jury confronts a complex question, the answer to which requires attending to several sub-questions. Two different voting procedures can be used. On one, the committee members vote on each sub-question and the voting results are used as premises for the committee’s conclusion on the main issue. This premise-based procedure can be contrasted with the conclusion-based approach, which requires the members to directly vote on the conclusion, with the vote of each member being guided by her (...)
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  47.  8
    BLOG: The Last Hope Part 3: Attitudes.Luc Bovens - 2017 - LSE Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method.
    How do you hope to be thought of after you die? In his final post in this series, Luc Bovens looks at attitudes towards the dead.
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  48.  57
    On Arguments From Self-Interest for the Nash Solution and the Kalai Egalitarian Solution to the Bargaining Problem.Luc Bovens - 1987 - Theory and Decision 23 (3):231-260.
    I argue in this paper that there are two considerations which govern the dynamics of a two-person bargaining game, viz. relative proportionate utility loss from conceding to one's opponent's proposal and relative non-proportionate utility loss from not conceding to one's opponent's proposal, if she were not to concede as well. The first consideration can adequately be captured by the information contained in vNM utilities. The second requires measures of utility which allow for an interpersonal comparison of utility differences. These considerations (...)
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  49.  62
    A Utilitarian Assessment of Alternative Decision Rules in the Council of Ministers.Claus Beisbart, Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2005 - European Union Politics 6 (4):395-419.
    We develop a utilitarian framework to assess different decision rules for the European Council of Ministers. The proposals to be decided on are conceptualized as utility vectors and a probability distribution is assumed over the utilities. We first show what decision rules yield the highest expected utilities for different means of the probability distri- bution. For proposals with high mean utility, simple bench- mark rules (such as majority voting with proportional weights) tend to outperform rules that have been proposed in (...)
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  50. The Backward Induction Argument for the Finite Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Surprise Exam Paradox.Luc Bovens - 1997 - Analysis 57 (3):179–186.
    There are two curious features about the backward induction argument (BIA) to the effect that repeated non-cooperation is the rational solution to the finite iterated prisoner’s dilemma (FIPD). First, however compelling the argument may seem, one remains hesitant either to recommend this solu- tion to players who are about to engage in cooperation or to explain cooperation as a deviation from rational play in real-life FIPD’s. Second, there seems to be a similarity between the BIA for the FIPD and the (...)
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