On Indeterminate Probabilities
SOME men disclaim certainty about anything. I am certain that they deceive themselves. Be that as it may, only the arrogant and foolish maintain that they are certain about everything. It is appropriate, therefore, to consider how judgments of uncertainty discriminate between hypotheses with respect to grades of uncertainty, probability, belief, or credence. Discriminations of this sort are relevant to the conduct of deliberations aimed at making choices between rival policies not only in the context of games of chance, but in moral, political, economic, or scientific decision making. If agent X wishes to promote some aim or system of values, he will (ceteris paribus) favor a policy that guarantees him against failure over a policy that does not. Where no guarantee is to be obtained, he will (or should) favor a policy that reduces the probability of failure to the greatest degree feasible. At any rate, this is so when X is engaged in deliberate decision making (as opposed to habitual or routine choice).
KeywordsRational Agent Rational Choice Expected Utility Inductive Logic Feasible Option
Work on this essay was partially supported by N.S.F. grant GS 28992. Research was carried out while I was a Visiting Scholar at Leckhampton, Corpus Christi, Cambridge. I wish to thank the Fellows of Corpus Christi College and the Departments of Philosophy and History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University, for their kind hospitality. I am indebted to Howard Stein for his help in formulating and establishing some of the results reported here. Sidney Morgenbesser, Ernest Nagel, Teddy Seidenfeld, and Frederic Schick as well as Stein have made helpful suggestions.