Counterfactual Desirability

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2):485-533 (2017)
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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 end the paper by investigating the conditions necessary and sufficient for a desirability function to be an expected utility. It turns out that the additional conditions imply highly implausible epistemic principles.

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Author Profiles

Richard Bradley
London School of Economics
H. Orri Stefansson
Stockholm University

Citations of this work

Patients, doctors and risk attitudes.Nicholas Makins - 2023 - Journal of Medical Ethics 49 (11):737-741.
Decision Theory.Katie Steele & H. Orri Stefánsson - 2012 - In Peter Adamson (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1954 - Wiley Publications in Statistics.
Risk and Rationality.Lara Buchak - 2013 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.John Von Neumann & Oskar Morgenstern - 1944 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
A philosophical guide to conditionals.Jonathan Bennett - 2003 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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