Regret and instability in causal decision theory
- 552 Downloads
Andy Egan has recently produced a set of alleged counterexamples to causal decision theory (CDT) in which agents are forced to decide among causally unratifiable options, thereby making choices they know they will regret. I show that, far from being counterexamples, CDT gets Egan’s cases exactly right. Egan thinks otherwise because he has misapplied CDT by requiring agents to make binding choices before they have processed all available information about the causal consequences of their acts. I elucidate CDT in a way that makes it clear where Egan goes wrong, and which explains why his examples pose no threat to the theory. My approach has similarities to a modification of CDT proposed by Frank Arntzenius, but it differs in the significance that it assigns to potential regrets. I maintain, contrary to Arntzenius, that an agent facing Egan’s decisions can rationally choose actions that she knows she will later regret. All rationality demands of agents it that they maximize unconditional causal expected utility from an epistemic perspective that accurately reflects all the available evidence about what their acts are likely to cause. This yields correct answers even in outlandish cases in which one is sure to regret whatever one does.
KeywordsExpected utility Ratifiability Causal decision theory Regret Decision instability Reflection principle Dynamics of deliberation
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Eells E. (1982) Rational decision and causality. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
- Gibbard A., Harper W. (1978) Counterfactuals and two kinds of expected utility. In: Hooker C., Leach J., McClennen E. (eds) Foundations and applications of decision theory. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 125–162Google Scholar
- Jeffrey R. (1983) The logic of decision (2nd ed.). The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- Jeffrey R. (1993) Causality and the logic of decision. Philosophical Topics 21: 139–151Google Scholar
- Nozick R. (1969) Newcomb’s problem and two principles of choice. In: Rescher N. (eds) Essays in honor of Carl G. Hempel. Synthese library. Reidel, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
- Pearl, J. (2010). The curse of free-will and the paradox of inevitable regret. UCLA Cognitive Systems Laboratory, Technical Report (R-375).Google Scholar
- Shafir E., Tversky A. (1995) Decision making. In: Smith E. E., Osherson D. N. (eds) An invitation to cognitive science, 2nd ed. (Vol. 3: Thinking). MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 77–100Google Scholar
- Skyrms B. (1990) The dynamics of rational deliberation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar