Richard Rudner famously argues that the communication of scientific advice to policy makers involves ethical value judgments. His argument has, however, been rightly criticized. This article revives Rudner’s conclusion, by strengthening both his lines of argument: we generalize his initial assumption regarding the form in which scientists must communicate their results and complete his ‘backup’ argument by appealing to the difference between private and public decisions. Our conclusion that science advisors must, for deep-seated pragmatic reasons, make value judgments is further (...) bolstered by reflections on how the scientific contribution to policy is far less straightforward than the Rudner-style model suggests. (shrink)
There has been much recent interest in imprecise probabilities, models of belief that allow unsharp or fuzzy credence. There have also been some influential criticisms of this position. Here we argue, chiefly against Elga (2010), that subjective probabilities need not be sharp. The key question is whether the imprecise probabilist can make reasonable sequences of decisions. We argue that she can. We outline Elga's argument and clarify the assumptions he makes and the principles of rationality he is implicitly committed to. (...) We argue that these assumptions are too strong and that rational imprecise choice is possible in the absence of these overly strong conditions. (shrink)
In this paper we explore the connections between ethics and decision theory. In particular, we consider the question of whether decision theory carries with it a bias towards consequentialist ethical theories. We argue that there are plausible versions of the other ethical theories that can be accommodated by “standard” decision theory, but there are also variations of these ethical theories that are less easily accommodated. So while “standard” decision theory is not exclusively consequentialist, it is not necessarily ethically neutral. Moreover, (...) even if our decision-theoretic models get the right answers vis-`a-vis morally correct action, the question remains as to whether the motivation for the non-consequentialist theories and the psychological processes of the agents who subscribe to those ethical theories are lost or poorly represented in the resulting models. (shrink)
Imprecise probabilism—which holds that rational belief/credence is permissibly represented by a set of probability functions—apparently suffers from a problem known as dilation. We explore whether this problem can be avoided or mitigated by one of the following strategies: (a) modifying the rule by which the credal state is updated, (b) restricting the domain of reasonable credal states to those that preclude dilation.
There are at least two plausible generalisations of subjective expected utility (SEU) theory: cumulative prospect theory (which relaxes the independence axiom) and Levi’s decision theory (which relaxes at least ordering). These theories call for a re-assessment of the minimal requirements of rational choice. Here, I consider how an analysis of sequential decision making contributes to this assessment. I criticise Hammond’s (Economica 44(176):337–350, 1977; Econ Philos 4:292–297, 1988a; Risk, decision and rationality, 1988b; Theory Decis 25:25–78, 1988c) ‘consequentialist’ argument for the SEU (...) preference axioms, but go on to formulate a related diachronic-Dutch-book-style’ argument that better achieves Hammond’s aims. Some deny the importance of Dutch-book sure losses, however, in which case, Seidenfeld’s (Econ Philos 4:267–290, 1988a) argument that distinguishes between theories that relax independence and those that relax ordering is relevant. I unravel Seidenfeld’s argument in light of the various criticisms of it and show that the crux of the argument is somewhat different and much more persuasive than what others have taken it to be; the critical issue is the modelling of future choices between ‘indifferent’ decision-tree branches in the sequential setting. Finally, I consider how Seidenfeld’s conclusions might nonetheless be resisted. (shrink)
We focus on a class of multicriteria methods that are commonly used in environmental decision making--those that employ the weighted linear average algorithm (and this includes the popular analytic hierarchy process (AHP)). While we do not doubt the potential benefits of using formal decision methods of this type, we draw attention to the consequences of not using them well. In particular, we highlight a property of these methods that should not be overlooked when they are applied in environmental and wider (...) decision-making contexts: the final decision or ranking of options is dependent on the choice of performance scoring scales for the criteria when the criteria weights are held constant. We compare this "sensitivity" to a well-known criticism of the AHP, and we go on to describe the more general lesson when it comes to using weighted linear average methods--a lesson concerning the relationship between criteria weights and performance scoring scales. (shrink)