Comparative Expectations

Studia Logica 102 (4):811-848 (2014)
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I introduce a mathematical account of expectation based on a qualitative criterion of coherence for qualitative comparisons between gambles (or random quantities). The qualitative comparisons may be interpreted as an agent’s comparative preference judgments over options or more directly as an agent’s comparative expectation judgments over random quantities. The criterion of coherence is reminiscent of de Finetti’s quantitative criterion of coherence for betting, yet it does not impose an Archimedean condition on an agent’s comparative judgments, it does not require the binary relation reflecting an agent’s comparative judgments to be reflexive, complete or even transitive, and it applies to an absolutely arbitrary collection of gambles, free of structural conditions (e.g., closure, measurability, etc.). Moreover, unlike de Finetti’s criterion of coherence, the qualitative criterion respects the principle of weak dominance, a standard of rational decision making that obliges an agent to reject a gamble that is possibly worse and certainly no better than another gamble available for choice. Despite these weak assumptions, I establish a qualitative analogue of de Finetti’s Fundamental Theorem of Prevision, from which it follows that any coherent system of comparative expectations can be extended to a weakly ordered coherent system of comparative expectations over any collection of gambles containing the initial set of gambles of interest. The extended weakly ordered coherent system of comparative expectations satisfies familiar additivity and scale invariance postulates (i.e., independence) when the extended collection forms a linear space. In the course of these developments, I recast de Finetti’s quantitative account of coherent prevision in the qualitative framework adopted in this article. I show that comparative previsions satisfy qualitative analogues of de Finetti’s famous bookmaking theorem and his Fundamental Theorem of Prevision.The results of this article complement those of another article (Pedersen, Strictly coherent preferences, no holds barred, Manuscript, 2013). I explain how those results entail that any coherent weakly ordered system of comparative expectations over a unital linear space can be represented by an expectation function taking values in a (possibly non-Archimedean) totally ordered field extension of the system of real numbers. The ordered field extension consists of formal power series in a single infinitesimal, a natural and economical representation that provides a relief map tracing numerical non-Archimedean features to qualitative non-Archimedean features



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Citations of this work

Imprecise Probabilities.Seamus Bradley - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Comparative Probabilities.Jason Konek - 2019 - In Richard Pettigrew & Jonathan Weisberg (eds.), The Open Handbook of Formal Epistemology. PhilPapers Foundation. pp. 267-348.
Infinitesimal Probabilities.Vieri Benci, Leon Horsten & Sylvia Wenmackers - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (2):509-552.
Hyperintensionality and Normativity.Federico L. G. Faroldi - 2019 - Cham, Switzerland: Springer Verlag.
Infinitesimal Probabilities.Sylvia Wenmackers - 2016 - In Richard Pettigrew & Jonathan Weisberg (eds.), The Open Handbook of Formal Epistemology. PhilPapers Foundation. pp. 199-265.

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