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  1. Sunk Costs.Robert Bass - manuscript
    Decision theorists generally object to “honoring sunk costs” – that is, treating the fact that some cost has been incurred in the past as a reason for action, apart from the consideration of expected consequences. This paper critiques the doctrine that sunk costs should never be honored on three levels. As background, the rationale for the doctrine is explained. Then it is shown that if it is always irrational to honor sunk costs, then other common and uncontroversial practices are also (...)
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  2. Prospect Theory and the Wisdom of the Inner Crowd.Stephan Hartmann - manuscript
    We give a probabilistic justification of the shape of one of the probability weighting functions used in Prospect Theory. To do so, we use an idea recently introduced by Herzog and Hertwig. Along the way we also suggest a new method for the aggregation of probabilities using statistical distances.
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  3. Assessing the Kantian Perspective on Valuing.Lantz Fleming Miller - manuscript
    Is the Kantian basis of valuing in humanity sufficient or sound enough to account for all valuing? At least two other such bases have been proposed across the ages, that of the sentiments and the valuing of life itself. This article focuses on the Kantian view, the first of these three possible bases of valuing. The concern is: by which criteria can we assess whether a given theory of or approach to basing a value is in fact usable and optimal, (...)
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  4. Expected comparative utility theory: A new theory of instrumental rationality.David Robert - manuscript
    This paper aims to address the question of how one ought to choose when one is uncertain about what outcomes will result from one’s choices, but when one can nevertheless assign probabilities to the different possible outcomes. These choices are commonly referred to as choices (or decisions) under risk. I assume in this paper that one ought to make instrumentally rational choices—more precisely, one ought to adopt suitable means to one’s morally permissible ends. Expected utility (EU) theory is generally accepted (...)
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  5. Against Anti-Fanaticism.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    Should you be willing to forego any sure good for a tiny probability of a vastly greater good? Fanatics say you should, anti-fanatics say you should not. Anti-fanaticism has great intuitive appeal. But, I argue, these intuitions are untenable, because satisfying them in their full generality is incompatible with three very plausible principles: acyclicity, a minimal dominance principle, and the principle that any outcome can be made better or worse. This argument against anti-fanaticism can be turned into a positive argument (...)
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  6. Can an evidentialist be risk-averse?Hayden Wilkinson - manuscript
    Two key questions of normative decision theory are: 1) whether the probabilities relevant to decision theory are evidential or causal; and 2) whether agents should be risk-neutral, and so maximise the expected value of the outcome, or instead risk-averse (or otherwise sensitive to risk). These questions are typically thought to be independent---that our answer to one bears little on our answer to the other. But there is a surprising argument that they are not. In this paper, I show that evidential (...)
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  7. Quantum probability and decision theory, revisited [2002 online-only paper].David Wallace - 2002
    An extended analysis is given of the program, originally suggested by Deutsch, of solving the probability problem in the Everett interpretation by means of decision theory. Deutsch's own proof is discussed, and alternatives are presented which are based upon different decision theories and upon Gleason's Theorem. It is argued that decision theory gives Everettians most or all of what they need from `probability'. Contact is made with Lewis's Principal Principle linking subjective credence with objective chance: an Everettian Principal Principle is (...)
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  8. What rationality is.Arif Ahmed -
    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 (...)
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  9. A Note on Knowledge-First Decision Theory and Practical Adequacy.Juan Comesaña - forthcoming - In Brian Kim & Matthew McGrath (eds.), Pragmatic Encroachment in Epistemology. Routledge.
  10. Climate Change, Uncertainty and Policy.Jeroen Hopster - forthcoming - Springer.
    While the foundations of climate science and ethics are well established, fine-grained climate predictions, as well as policy-decisions, are beset with uncertainties. This chapter maps climate uncertainties and classifies them as to their ground, extent and location. A typology of uncertainty is presented, centered along the axes of scientific and moral uncertainty. This typology is illustrated with paradigmatic examples of uncertainty in climate science, climate ethics and climate economics. Subsequently, the chapter discusses the IPCC’s preferred way of representing uncertainties and (...)
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  11. The Value of Normative Information.Jeffrey Sanford Russell - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper explores the idea that it is instrumentally valuable to learn normative truths. We consider an argument for "normative hedging" based on this principle, and examine the structure of decision-making under moral uncertainty that arises from it. But it also turns out that the value of normative information is inconsistent with the principle that learning *empirical* truths is instrumentally valuable. We conclude with a brief comment on "metanormative regress.".
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  12. Time and the Decider.David Spurrett - forthcoming - Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
    Shadmehr and Ahmed’s book is a welcome extension of optimal foraging theory and neuroeconomics, achieved by integrating both with parameters relating to effort and rate of movement. Their most persuasive and prolific data comes from saccades, where times before and after decision are reasonably determinate. Skeletal movements are less likely to exhibit such tidy temporal organisation.
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  13. The Argument from Small Improvement is a Red Herring.Thomas Raleigh - 2023 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    The much-discussed ‘Argument from Small Improvement’ has been advanced both as a reason to reject (tripartite) Completeness, one of the standard axioms of decision theory, and to accept the possibility of rationally incomparable choices. But this form of argument cannot be an effective basis for either of these conclusions, unless one already has some prior, independent reason to prefer Transitivity to Completeness as a constraint on rational preferences (or rational values). In particular, I show how a reverse argument from small (...)
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  14. Acting on belief functions.Nicholas J. J. Smith - 2023 - Theory and Decision 95 (4):575-621.
    The degrees of belief of rational agents should be guided by the evidence available to them. This paper takes as a starting point the view—argued elsewhere—that the formal model best able to capture this idea is one that represents degrees of belief using Dempster–Shafer belief functions. However degrees of belief should not only respect evidence: they also guide decision and action. Whatever formal model of degrees of belief we adopt, we need a decision theory that works with it: that takes (...)
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  15. A Plea for Plausibility: Toward a Comparative Decision Theory.John R. Welch - 2023 - London: Routledge.
    Human decisions are conditioned by formidable uncertainty. The standard resource for dealing rationally with uncertainty is the mathematical concept of probability. The probability calculus is well-known, but since the numerical demands for applying it cannot usually be met, it is not widely applicable. By contrast, the concept of plausibility is widely applicable, but it is little known. This book relies on a generalized concept of plausibility whose strength is its adaptability. The adaptability is due to a novel form of decision (...)
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  16. Extending Environments To Measure Self-Reflection In Reinforcement Learning.Samuel Allen Alexander, Michael Castaneda, Kevin Compher & Oscar Martinez - 2022 - Journal of Artificial General Intelligence 13 (1).
    We consider an extended notion of reinforcement learning in which the environment can simulate the agent and base its outputs on the agent's hypothetical behavior. Since good performance usually requires paying attention to whatever things the environment's outputs are based on, we argue that for an agent to achieve on-average good performance across many such extended environments, it is necessary for the agent to self-reflect. Thus weighted-average performance over the space of all suitably well-behaved extended environments could be considered a (...)
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  17. Imprecise Credences and Acceptance.Benjamin Lennertz - 2022 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 9.
    Elga (2010) argues that no plausible decision rule governs action with imprecise credences. I follow Moss (2015a) in claiming that the solution to Elga’s challenge is found in the philosophy of mind, not in devising a special new decision rule. Moss suggests that in decision situations that involve imprecise credences, we must identify with a precise credence, but she says little about identification. By reflecting on the common conception of identification and on what is necessary for Moss’s solution to succeed, (...)
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  18. Knowledge and decision: Introduction to the Synthese topical collection.Moritz Schulz, Patricia Rich, Jakob Koscholke & Roman Heil - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2):1-13.
  19. Can a knowledge threshold save the de minimis principle?H. Orri Stefansson & Björn Lundgren - 2022 - Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part O: Journal of Risk and Reliability 236 (6):1164-1167.
    The de minimis principle states that some risks are so trivial that they can be ignored or treated categorically differently from non-trivial risks. Lundgren and Stefánsson criticize the de minimis principle, arguing that it either has to be applied locally or globally and that problems arise whichever application is chosen. Aven and Seif respond to Lundgren and Stefánsson’s argument and defend the de minimis principle as a “meaningful and useful perspective for handling risk in practice.” The response highlights some aspects (...)
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  20. Following the Science: Pandemic Policy Making and Reasonable Worst-Case Scenarios.Richard Bradley & Joe Roussos - 2021 - LSE Public Policy Review 1 (4):6.
    The UK has been ‘following the science’ in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in line with the national framework for the use of scientific advice in assessment of risk. We argue that the way in which it does so is unsatisfactory in two important respects. Firstly, pandemic policy making is not based on a comprehensive assessment of policy impacts. And secondly, the focus on reasonable worst-case scenarios as a way of managing uncertainty results in a loss of decision-relevant information and (...)
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  21. Hard Choices Made Harder.Ryan Doody - 2021 - In Henrik Andersson & Anders Herlitz (eds.), Value Incommensurability: Ethics, Risk, and Decision-Making. Routledge. pp. 247-266.
    How should you evaluate your choices when you’re unsure what their outcomes will be? One popular answer is to rank your options in terms of their expected utilities. But what should you do when you think that the value of their respective outcomes might be incommensurable? In the face of incommensurable values, it no longer makes sense to speak of ranking your options according to expected utility. Are there any general principles to guide us when facing decisions of this kind? (...)
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  22. Uncertain Values: An Axiomatic Approach to Axiological Uncertainty.Stefan Riedener - 2021 - Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter.
    How ought you to evaluate your options if you're uncertain about what's fundamentally valuable? A prominent response is Expected Value Maximisation (EVM)—the view that under axiological uncertainty, an option is better than another if and only if it has the greater expected value across axiologies. But the expected value of an option depends on quantitative probability and value facts, and in particular on value comparisons across axiologies. We need to explain what it is for such facts to hold. Also, EVM (...)
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  23. Why You Should Vote to Change the Outcome.Zach Barnett - 2020 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 48 (4):422-446.
    Prevailing opinion—defended by Jason Brennan and others—is that voting to change the outcome is irrational, since although the payoffs of tipping an election can be quite large, the probability of doing so is extraordinarily small. This paper argues that prevailing opinion is incorrect. Voting is shown to be rational so long as two conditions are satisfied: First, the average social benefit of electing the better candidate must be at least twice as great as the individual cost of voting, and second, (...)
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  24. The intrinsic value of risky prospects.Zeev Goldschmidt & Ittay Nissan-Rozen - 2020 - Synthese 198 (8):7553-7575.
    We study the representation of attitudes to risk in Jeffrey’s decision-theoretic framework suggested by Stefánsson and Bradley :602–625, 2015; Br J Philos Sci 70:77–102, 2017) and Bradley :231–248, 2016; Decisions theory with a human face, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2017). We show that on this representation, the value of any prospect may be expressed as a sum of two components, the prospect’s instrumental value and the prospect’s intrinsic value. Both components have an expectational form. We also make a distinction between (...)
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  25. Structuring Decisions Under Deep Uncertainty.Casey Helgeson - 2020 - Topoi 39 (2):257-269.
    Innovative research on decision making under ‘deep uncertainty’ is underway in applied fields such as engineering and operational research, largely outside the view of normative theorists grounded in decision theory. Applied methods and tools for decision support under deep uncertainty go beyond standard decision theory in the attention that they give to the structuring of decisions. Decision structuring is an important part of a broader philosophy of managing uncertainty in decision making, and normative decision theorists can both learn from, and (...)
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  26. Options must be external.Justis Koon - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1175-1189.
    Brian Hedden has proposed that any successful account of options for the subjective “ought” must satisfy two constraints: first, it must ensure that we are able to carry out each of the options available to us, and second, it should guarantee that the set of options available to us supervenes on our mental states. In this paper I show that, due to the ever-present possibility of Frankfurt-style cases, these two constraints jointly entail that no agent has any options at any (...)
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  27. 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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  28. Bayesian Decision Theory and Stochastic Independence.Philippe Mongin - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (1):152-178.
    As stochastic independence is essential to the mathematical development of probability theory, it seems that any foundational work on probability should be able to account for this property. Bayesian decision theory appears to be wanting in this respect. Savage’s postulates on preferences under uncertainty entail a subjective expected utility representation, and this asserts only the existence and uniqueness of a subjective probability measure, regardless of its properties. What is missing is a preference condition corresponding to stochastic independence. To fill this (...)
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  29. Deciding without Intending.Alexandra M. Nolte, Wesley Buckwalter, David Rose & John Turri - 2020 - Journal of Cognition 3 (1):12.
    According to a consensus view in philosophy, “deciding” and “intending” are synonymous expressions. Researchers have recently challenged this view with the discovery of a counterexample in which ordinary speakers attribute deciding without intending. The aim of this paper is to investigate the strengths and limits of this discovery. The result of this investigation revealed that the evidence challenging the consensus view is strong. We replicate the initial finding against consensus and extend it by utilizing several new measures, materials, and procedures. (...)
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  30. Transformative experience and the knowledge norms for action: Moss on Paul’s challenge to decision theory.Richard Pettigrew - 2020 - In Becoming Someone New: Essays on Transformative Experience, Choice, and Change. New York, NY, USA:
    to appear in Lambert, E. and J. Schwenkler (eds.) Transformative Experience (OUP) -/- L. A. Paul (2014, 2015) argues that the possibility of epistemically transformative experiences poses serious and novel problems for the orthodox theory of rational choice, namely, expected utility theory — I call her argument the Utility Ignorance Objection. In a pair of earlier papers, I responded to Paul’s challenge (Pettigrew 2015, 2016), and a number of other philosophers have responded in similar ways (Dougherty, et al. 2015, Harman (...)
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  31. 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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  32. Rebooting the new evidence scholarship.John R. Welch - 2020 - International Journal of Evidence and Proof 24 (4):351-373.
    The new evidence scholarship addresses three distinct approaches: legal probabilism, Bayesian decision theory and relative plausibility theory. Each has major insights to offer, but none seems satisfactory as it stands. This paper proposes that relative plausibility theory be modified in two substantial ways. The first is by defining its key concept of plausibility, hitherto treated as primitive, by generalising the standard axioms of probability. The second is by complementing the descriptive component of the theory with a normative decision theory adapted (...)
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  33. Parity, prospects, and predominance.Ryan Doody - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (4):1077-1095.
    Let’s say that you regard two things as on a par when you don’t prefer one to other and aren’t indifferent between them. What does rationality require of you when choosing between risky options whose outcomes you regard as on a par? According to Prospectism, you are required to choose the option with the best prospects, where an option’s prospects is a probability-distribution over its potential outcomes. In this paper, I argue that Prospectism violates a dominance principle—which I call The (...)
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  34. If There Are No Diachronic Norms of Rationality, Why Does It Seem Like There Are?Ryan Doody - 2019 - Res Philosophica 96 (2):141-173.
    I offer an explanation for why certain sequences of decisions strike us as irrational while others do not. I argue that we have a standing desire to tell flattering yet plausible narratives about ourselves, and that cases of diachronic behavior that strike us as irrational are those in which you had the opportunity to hide something unflattering and failed to do so.
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  35. Normative Decision Theory.Edward Elliott - 2019 - Analysis 79 (4):755-772.
    A review of some major topics of debate in normative decision theory from circa 2007 to 2019. Topics discussed include the ongoing debate between causal and evidential decision theory, decision instability, risk-weighted expected utility theory, decision-making with incomplete preferences, and decision-making with imprecise credences.
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  36. Strategic Voting Under Uncertainty About the Voting Method.Wesley H. Holliday & Eric Pacuit - 2019 - Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science 297:252–272.
    Much of the theoretical work on strategic voting makes strong assumptions about what voters know about the voting situation. A strategizing voter is typically assumed to know how other voters will vote and to know the rules of the voting method. A growing body of literature explores strategic voting when there is uncertainty about how others will vote. In this paper, we study strategic voting when there is uncertainty about the voting method. We introduce three notions of manipulability for a (...)
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  37. Measuring Belief and Risk Attitude.Sven Neth - 2019 - Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science 297:354–364.
    Ramsey (1926) sketches a proposal for measuring the subjective probabilities of an agent by their observable preferences, assuming that the agent is an expected utility maximizer. I show how to extend the spirit of Ramsey's method to a strictly wider class of agents: risk-weighted expected utility maximizers (Buchak 2013). In particular, I show how we can measure the risk attitudes of an agent by their observable preferences, assuming that the agent is a risk-weighted expected utility maximizer. Further, we can leverage (...)
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  38. Choosing for Changing Selves.Richard Pettigrew - 2019 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    What we value, like, endorse, want, and prefer changes over the course of our lives. Richard Pettigrew presents a theory of rational decision making for agents who recognise that their values will change over time and whose decisions will affect those future times.
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  39. Don’t Look Now.Bernhard Salow & Arif Ahmed - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2):327-350.
    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.
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  40. Rationality and Future Discounting.Arif Ahmed - 2018 - Topoi 39 (2):245-256.
    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.
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  41. Fear as a Regulator of the Process of Making Life Decisions in the Period of Late Adolescence.Volodymyr Chernobrovkin & Maksym Starodub - 2018 - Psychology and Psychosocial Interventions 1:55-61.
    The article addresses the problem of making life decisions by people during the period of late adolescence; describes the specifics of the influence of various factors, in particular, the sense of life orientations, life position, impulsivity; the questions of the influence of fear on the process of making life decisions by young people; and the influence of various types of fears on this process. -/- The results of the research show that the influence of fears on the process of making (...)
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  42. Expected Comparative Utility Theory: A New Theory of Rational Choice.David Robert - 2018 - Philosophical Forum 49 (1):19-37.
    In this paper, I argue for a new normative theory of rational choice under risk, namely expected comparative utility (ECU) theory. I first show that for any choice option, a, and for any state of the world, G, the measure of the choiceworthiness of a in G is the comparative utility (CU) of a in G—that is, the difference in utility, in G, between a and whichever alternative to a carries the greatest utility in G. On the basis of this (...)
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  43. Probabilistic Opinion Pooling with Imprecise Probabilities.Rush T. Stewart & Ignacio Ojea Quintana - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (1):17-45.
    The question of how the probabilistic opinions of different individuals should be aggregated to form a group opinion is controversial. But one assumption seems to be pretty much common ground: for a group of Bayesians, the representation of group opinion should itself be a unique probability distribution, 410–414, [45]; Bordley Management Science, 28, 1137–1148, [5]; Genest et al. The Annals of Statistics, 487–501, [21]; Genest and Zidek Statistical Science, 114–135, [23]; Mongin Journal of Economic Theory, 66, 313–351, [46]; Clemen and (...)
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  44. Grounding Reichenbach’s Pragmatic Vindication of Induction.Michael J. Shaffer - 2017 - Polish Journal of Philosophy 11 (1):43-55.
    This paper has three interdependent aims. The first is to make Reichenbach’s views on induction and probabilities clearer, especially as they pertain to his pragmatic justification of induction. The second aim is to show how his view of pragmatic justification arises out of his commitment to extensional empiricism and moots the possibility of a non-pragmatic justification of induction. Finally, and most importantly, a formal decision-theoretic account of Reichenbach’s pragmatic justification is offered in terms both of the minimax principle and the (...)
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  45. Stanley and the Stakes Hypothesis.Michael J. Shaffer - 2017 - The Reasoner 11:73-74.
    The main examples of pragmatic encroachment presented by Jason Stanley involve the idea that knowledge ascription occurs more readily in cases where stakes are low rather than high. This is the stakes hypothesis. In this paper an example is presented showing that in some cases knowledge ascription is more readily appropriate where stakes are high rather than low.
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  46. The Predicament of Choice.Ralph Wedgwood - 2017 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 12:294-313.
    Normal agents in the actual world are limited: they cannot think about all the options that are available to them—or even about all options that are available to them according to their evidence. Moreover, agents cannot choose an option unless they have thought about that option. Such agents can be irrational in two ways: either by making their choice too quickly, without canvassing enough options, or by wasting time canvassing ever more options when they have already thought of enough options. (...)
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  47. Desire, Expectation, and Invariance.Richard Bradley & H. Orii Stefansson - 2016 - Mind 125 (499):691-725.
    The Desire-as-Belief thesis (DAB) states that any rational person desires a proposition exactly to the degree that she believes or expects the proposition to be good. Many people take David Lewis to have shown the thesis to be inconsistent with Bayesian decision theory. However, as we show, Lewis's argument was based on an Invariance condition that itself is inconsistent with the (standard formulation of the) version of Bayesian decision theory that he assumed in his arguments against DAB. The aim of (...)
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  48. A Mysterious Case of Missing Value.Earl Conee - 2016 - Philosophic Exchange 45 (1):1-22.
    Sometimes there are conflicts about what we ought to do according to differing evaluative dimensions, like morality and self-interest. After sketching an interpretation of "ought" claims of all sorts, it is argued that there is no overriding evaluation that authoritatively resolves the conflicts. It is further argued that this is not altogether disappointing.
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  49. Conditional choice with a vacuous second tier.Rush T. Stewart - 2016 - Synthese 193 (1):219-243.
    This paper studies a generalization of rational choice theory. I briefly review the motivations that Helzner gives for his conditional choice construction . Then, I focus on the important class of conditional choice functions with vacuous second tiers. This class is interesting for both formal and philosophical reasons. I argue that this class makes explicit one of conditional choice’s normative motivations in terms of an account of neutrality advocated within a certain tradition in decision theory. The observations recorded—several of which (...)
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  50. Revisiting Risk and Rationality: a reply to Pettigrew and Briggs.Lara Buchak - 2015 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (5):841-862.
    I have claimed that risk-weighted expected utility maximizers are rational, and that their preferences cannot be captured by expected utility theory. Richard Pettigrew and Rachael Briggs have recently challenged these claims. Both authors argue that only EU-maximizers are rational. In addition, Pettigrew argues that the preferences of REU-maximizers can indeed be captured by EU theory, and Briggs argues that REU-maximizers lose a valuable tool for simplifying their decision problems. I hold that their arguments do not succeed and that my original (...)
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