Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

The Philosophical Review: January 2010, Vol. 119, No. 1

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

The Philosophical Review: January 2010, Vol. 119, No. 1

Article excerpt

Decision-Theoretic Paradoxes as Voting Paradoxes, RACHAEL BRIGGS

It is a platitude among decision theorists that agents should choose their actions so as to maximize expected value. But exactly how to define expected value is contentious. Evidential decision theory (EDT), causal decision theory (CDT), and a theory proposed by Ralph Wedgwood that this essay will call benchmark theory (BT) all advise agents to maximize different types of expected value. Consequently, their verdicts sometimes conflict. In certain famous cases of conflict--medical Newcomb problems--CDT and BT seem to get things right, while EDT seems to get things wrong. In other cases of conflict, including some recent examples suggested by Andy Egan, EDT and BT seem to get things right, while CDT seems to get things wrong. In still other cases, EDT and CDT seems to get things right, while BT gets things wrong. It's no accident, this essay claims, that all three decision theories are subject to counterexamples. Decision rules can be reinterpreted as voting rules, where the voters are the agent's possible future selves. The problematic examples have the structure of voting paradoxes. Just as voting paradoxes show that no voting rule can do everything we want, decision-theoretic paradoxes show that no decision rule can do everything we want. Luckily, the so-called tickle defense establishes that EDT, CDT, and BT will do everything we want in a wide range of situations. Most decision situations, this essay argues, are analogues of voting situations in which the voters unanimously adopt the same set of preferences. …

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