, Volume 79, Issue 6, pp 1225–1248 | Cite as

Types of Uncertainty

  • Richard Bradley
  • Mareile DrechslerEmail author


We distinguish three qualitatively different types of uncertainty—ethical, option and state space uncertainty—that are distinct from state uncertainty, the empirical uncertainty that is typically measured by a probability function on states of the world. Ethical uncertainty arises if the agent cannot assign precise utilities to consequences. Option uncertainty arises when the agent does not know what precise consequence an act has at every state. Finally, state space uncertainty exists when the agent is unsure how to construct an exhaustive state space. These types of uncertainty are characterised along three dimensions—nature, object and severity—and the relationship between them is examined. We conclude that these different forms of uncertainty cannot be reduced to empirical uncertainty about the state of the world without inducing an increase in its severity.


Factual Uncertainty Normative Uncertainty Causal Decision Theorist Evidential Decision Theory Default View 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to acknowledge the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Grant Reference: AH/I003118/1), The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (Grant Number 236-20-005), and the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (Grant Number 09-194). We are grateful to Hykel Hosni and Casey Helgeson for their comments on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific MethodLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK

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