, Volume 192, Issue 6, pp 1883–1908 | Cite as

Egan and agents: How evidential decision theory can deal with Egan’s dilemma



Andy Egan has presented a dilemma for decision theory. As is well known, Newcomb cases appear to undermine the case for evidential decision theory (EDT). However, Egan has come up with a new scenario which poses difficulties for causal decision theory. I offer a simple solution to this dilemma in terms of a modified EDT. I propose an epistemological test: take some feature which is (i) relevant to your evaluation of the scenarios under consideration, (ii) evidentially correlated with the actions under consideration albeit, (iii) causally independent of them. Hold this feature fixed as a hypothesis. The test shows that, in Newcomb cases, EDT would mislead the agent. Where the test shows EDT to be misleading, I propose to use fictive conditional credences in the EDT-formula under the constraint that they are set to equal values. I then discuss Huw Price’s defence of EDT as an alternative to my diagnosis. I argue that my solution also applies if one accepts the main premisses of Price’s argument. I close with applying my solution to Nozick’s original Newcomb problem.


Choice Decision theory Causal decision theory  Evidential decision theory Egan Newcomb 


  1. Ahmed, A., & Price, H. (2012). Arntzenius on ‘Why Ain’cha Rich?’. Erkenntnis, 77, 15–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahmed, A. (2012). Push the button. Philosophy of Science, 79, 386–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arntzenius, F. (2008). No regrets, or: Edith Piaf revamps decision theory. Erkenntnis, 68, 277–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cantwell, J. (2010). On an alleged counter-example to causal decision theory. Synthese, 173, 127–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Edgington, D. (2011). Conditionals, causation, and decision. Analytic Philosophy, 52, 75–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Egan, A. (2007). Some counterexamples to causal decision theory. Philosophical Review, 116, 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fisher, J. C. Disposition-based decision theory. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  8. Gustafsson, J. (2011). A note in defence of ratificationism. Erkenntnis, 75, 147–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kyburg, H. (1988). Powers. In W. L. Harper & B. Skyrms (Eds.), Causation in decision, belief change, and statistics (Vol. II, pp. 71–82). Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ledwig, M. (2000). Newcomb’s problem. PhD Dissertation, Universität Konstanz.
  11. Lewis, D. (1981). Causal decision theory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 59, 5–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lewis, D. (1986). Part 7: Dependence and decision. In Philosophical Papers (Vol. II, pp. 271–343). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Meek, C., & Glymour, C. (1994). Conditioning and intervening. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 45, 1001–1021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Nozick, R. (1993). The nature of rationality. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Nozick, R. (1998). Newcomb’s problem and two principles of choice. In Socratic puzzles (pp. 45–74). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (originally 1969).Google Scholar
  16. Price, H. (1986). Against causal decision theory. Synthese, 67, 195–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Price, H. (1991). Agency and probabilistic causality. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 42, 157–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schwartz, B., Ben-Haim, Y., & Dacso, C. (2010). What makes a good decision? Robust satisficing as a normative standard of rational decision making. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 41, 209–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Wedgwood, R. (2013). Gandalf’s solution to the Newcomb problem. Synthese, 190, 2643–2675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Weirich, P. (2008). Causal decision theory. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2008 ed.).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HU BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations