This article proposes a new theory of rational decision, distinct from both causal decision theory (CDT) and evidential decision theory (EDT). First, some intuitive counterexamples to CDT and EDT are presented. Then the motivation for the new theory is given: the correct theory of rational decision will resemble CDT in that it will not be sensitive to any comparisons of absolute levels of value across different states of nature, but only to comparisons of the differences in value between the available options within states of nature; however, the correct theory will also resemble EDT in that it will rely on conditional probabilities (not unconditional probabilities). The new theory gives a prominent role to the notion of a “benchmark” for each state of nature, by comparison with which the value of the available options in that state of nature are measured, and so it has been called the Benchmark Theory (BT). It is argued that BT gives the right verdict on the cases that seem to be counterexamples to CDT and EDT. Finally, some objections to BT are considered and answered.
KeywordsRational choice Causal decision theory Evidential decision theory Probability Incommensurability
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Arrow K. (1963) Social choice and individual values (2nd ed.). Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
- Binmore K. (2009) Rational decisions. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
- Broome J. (1991) Weighing goods. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Broome J. (1997) Is incommensurability vagueness?. In: Chang R. (Ed.) Incommensurability, incomparability, and practical reason. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 67–89Google Scholar
- Hobbes, T. (1651). Leviathan. London.Google Scholar
- Jeffrey R. (1983) The logic of decision (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
- Joyce, J. M. (forthcoming). Ratifiability and stability in causal decision theory. Draft of 10 July 2010.Google Scholar
- Lewis, D. K. (1981). Causal decision theory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 59, 5–30. Reprinted in Lewis (1985, 305–337).Google Scholar
- Lewis, D. K. (1985). Philosophical papers (Vol. II). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Nozick R. (1969) Newcomb’s problem and two principles of choice. In: Rescher N. (Ed.) Essays in honor of Carl G. Hempel. D. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 107–133Google Scholar
- Savage L. J. (1972) The foundations of statistics (2nd ed.). Dover, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Setiya K. (2007) Reasons without rationalism. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
- Tolkien J. R. R. (1954) The fellowship of the ring: Being the first part of the lord of the rings. Allen & Unwin, LondonGoogle Scholar