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Interventionist decision theory


DOI: 10.1007/s11229-016-1133-x

Cite this article as:
Stern, R. Synthese (2016). doi:10.1007/s11229-016-1133-x


Jim Joyce has argued that David Lewis’s formulation of causal decision theory is inadequate because it fails to apply to the “small world” decisions that people face in real life. Meanwhile, several authors have argued that causal decision theory should be developed such that it integrates the interventionist approach to causal modeling because of the expressive power afforded by the language of causal models, but, as of now, there has been little work towards this end. In this paper, I propose a variant of Lewis’s causal decision theory that is intended to meet both of these demands. Specifically, I argue that Lewis’s causal decision theory can be rendered applicable to small world decisions if one analyzes his dependency hypotheses as causal hypotheses that depend on the interventionist causal modeling framework for their semantics. I then argue that this interventionist variant of Lewis’s causal decision theory is preferable to interventionist causal decision theories that purportedly generalize Lewis’s through the use of conditional probabilities. This is because Lewisian interventionist decision theory captures the causal decision theorist’s conviction that any correlation between what the agent does and cannot cause should be irrelevant to the agent’s choice, while purported generalizations do not.


Causal decision theory Causal models Causation 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UW-Madison PhilosophyMadisonUSA

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