Determinism, Counterfactuals, and Decision

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (2):286-302 (2021)
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Rational agents face choices, even when taking seriously the possibility of determinism. Rational agents also follow the advice of Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Although many take these claims to be well-motivated, there is growing pressure to reject one of them, as CDT seems to go badly wrong in some deterministic cases. We argue that deterministic cases do not undermine a counterfactual model of rational deliberation, which is characteristic of CDT. Rather, they force us to distinguish between counterfactuals that are relevant and ones that are irrelevant for the purposes of deliberation. We incorporate this distinction into decision theory to develop ‘Selective Causal Decision Theory’, which delivers the correct recommendations in deterministic cases while respecting the key motivations behind CDT.

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Author Profiles

Alexander Sandgren
Australian National University
Timothy Luke Williamson
Australian National University

Citations of this work

Causal counterfactuals without miracles or backtracking.J. Dmitri Gallow - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 107 (2):439-469.
Confession of a causal decision theorist.Adam Elga - 2022 - Analysis 82 (2):203-213.
Decision, Causality, and Predetermination.Boris Kment - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Counterfactual Decision Theory.Brian Hedden - 2023 - Mind 132 (527):730-761.
Causal Decision Theory, Context, and Determinism.Calum McNamara - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

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References found in this work

Are we free to break the laws?David Lewis - 1981 - Theoria 47 (3):113-21.
Causal decision theory.David Lewis - 1981 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 59 (1):5 – 30.

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