, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 83–105 | Cite as

Objective chance, indicative conditionals and decision theory; or, how you can be smart, rich and keep on smoking

  • Thomas C. Vinci


In this paper I explore a version of standard (expected utility) decision theory in which the probability parameter is interpreted as an objective chance believed by agents to obtain and values of this parameter are fixed by indicative conditionals linking possible actions with possible outcomes. After reviewing some recent developments centering on the “common-cause” counterexamples to the standard approach, I introduce and briefly discuss the key notions in my own approach. (This approach has essentially the same results as the causal approach in common-cause cases.) I then discuss the Rule of Dominance and find, in the context of the present proposal, that it cannot serve as an independent source of action justification. Turning next to Newcomb's Problem, I argue that the much discussed issue of “back-tracking” counterfactuals is something of a red herring for decision theory. Once the twin distractions of back-tracking counterfactuals and Dominance Reasoning are set aside the 1-box solution emerges as a natural consequence of the present proposal. It is of interest that this proposal agrees with the causal approach in the standard common-cause examples and the expected-utility approach in the Newcomb case: one can be smart and rich and keep on smoking.


Standard Approach Decision Theory Expected Utility Natural Consequence Independent Source 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas C. Vinci
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDalhousie and Simon Fraser UniversitiesHalifaxCanada

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