Advertisement

Comparative Decision Theory

  • John R. WelchEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Theory and Decision Library A: book series (TDLA, volume 49)

Abstract

To prepare this work’s subsequent discussions of morally instrumental and morally teleological discourse, Chap. 3 addresses the issue of theory choice. It surveys four views of how to choose a theory: probabilism, falsificationism, decision theory, and virtue epistemology. The chapter argues that each of these approaches has serious debilities, but those of decision theory are less debilitating than the rest. It therefore proposes a decision-theoretic approach to theory choice of any kind—moral and non-moral alike. However, attempts to apply decision theory to real-world problems confront a well-known difficulty: the exceptionally heavy information load the theory imposes on users. Bayesian decision theorists take the probability and utility functions that underlie expected utilities to determine sharp numeric values. Real-life decisions, however, must usually be made without nearly as much information. To ameliorate this difficulty, the chapter introduces a version of comparative decision theory. Because this form of decision theory requires no more than a bare minimum of comparative values for plausibilities and utilities, it can be widely applied. The chapter concludes with a consideration of three decision-theoretically foundational issues: transitivity, independence, and suspension of judgment.

Keywords

Decision Rule Decision Theory Expect Utility Theory Choice Virtue Epistemology 
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.

References

  1. Allais, Maurice. 1953. Fondements d’une théorie positive des choix comportant un risque et critique des postulats et axiomes de l’école américaine. Econometrie 40:257–332. English edition: Allais, Maurice. 1979a. The foundations of a positive theory of choice involving risk and a criticism of the postulates and axioms of the American school. In Expected utility hypotheses and the Allais paradox: Contemporary discussions of decisions under uncertainty with Allais’ rejoinder, ed. Maurice Allais and Ole Hagen, 27–145. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  2. Allais, Maurice. 1979b. The so-called Allais paradox and rational decisions under uncertainty. In Expected utility hypotheses and the Allais paradox: Contemporary discussions of decisions under uncertainty with Allais’ rejoinder, ed. Maurice Allais and Ole Hagen, 437–681. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  3. Amihud, Yakov. 1979. Critical examination of the new foundation of utility. In Expected utility hypotheses and the Allais paradox: Contemporary discussions of decisions under uncertainty with Allais’ rejoinder, ed. Maurice Allais and Ole Hagen, 149–160. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, John D. et al. 1998. Indication, from Pioneer 10/11, Galileo, and Ulysses data, of an apparent anomalous, weak, long-range acceleration. Physical Review Letters 81:2858–2861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aumann, Robert J. 1962. Utility theory without the completeness axiom. Econometrica 30:445–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baker, Alan. 2007. Occam’s razor in science: A case study from biogeography. Biology and Philosophy 22:193–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baumann, Peter. 2005. Theory choice and the intransitivity of ‘is a better theory than’. Philosophy of Science 72:231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Behn, Robert D., and James W. Vaupel. 1982. Quick analysis for busy decision makers. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Berger, James O. 1984. The robust Bayesian viewpoint. In Robustness of Bayesian analyses, ed. Joseph B. Kadane, 63–124. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  10. Berger, James O. 1985. Statistical decision theory and Bayesian analysis. 2nd ed. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Black, Max. 1985. Making intelligent choices: How useful is decision theory? Dialectica 39:19–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bryson, Bill. 2003. A short history of nearly everything. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  13. Butler, Joseph. 1736. The analogy of religion, natural and revealed, to the constitution and course of nature. In The works of Joseph Butler, ed. W. E. Gladstone, vol. I. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  14. Byron, Michael. 1998. Satisficing and optimality. Ethics 109:67–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Byron, Michael, ed. 2004. Satisficing and maximizing: Moral theorists on practical reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Carnap, Rudolf. 1962. Logical foundations of probability. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  17. Carnap, Rudolf. 1963. Probability and inductive logic, My basic conceptions of probability and induction. In The philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, ed. Paul A. Schilpp, 71–77, 966–979. La Salle: Open Court. (London: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  18. Carnap, Rudolf. 1971. Inductive logic and rational decisions, A basic system of inductive logic, part 1. In Studies in inductive logic and probability, ed. Rudolf Carnap and Richard C. Jeffrey, vol. I, 5–31, 33–165 Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Chang, Hasok, and Sabina Leonelli. 2005. Infrared metaphysics: Radiation and theory-choice. Part 2. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36:686–705.Google Scholar
  20. Chu, Francis C., and Joseph Y. Halpern. 2004. Great expectations. Part II: Generalized expected utility as a universal decision rule. Artificial Intelligence 159:207–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Chu, Francis C., and Joseph Y. Halpern. 2008. Great expectations. Part I: On the customizability of generalized expected utility. Theory and Decision 64:1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. De Finetti, Bruno. 1931. Probabilismo. Saggio critico sulla teoràa delle probabilità e sul valore della scienza. Logos 14:163–219. English edition: De Finetti, Bruno. 1989. Probabilism: A critical essay on the theory of probability and on the value of science. Erkenntnis 31:169–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. De Finetti, Bruno. 1937. La prévision, ses lois logiques, ses sources subjectives. Annales de l’Institut Henri Poincaré 7:1–68. English edition: De Finetti, Bruno. 1980. Foresight: Its logical laws, its subjective sources. In Studies in subjective probability, ed. H. E. Kyburg and H. E. Smokler, 53–118. New York: R. E. Krieger.Google Scholar
  24. Dewey, John, and James H. Tufts. 1932. Ethics. Rev. ed. In The later works, 1925–1953, ed. Jo Ann Boydston, vol. 7. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  25. Dreier, James. 2004. Why ethical satisficing makes sense and rational satisficing doesn’t. In Satisficing and maximizing: Moral theorists on practical reason, ed. Michael Byron, 131–154. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Eells, Ellery. 2000. Prediction, probability, and pragmatics. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 30:183–206.Google Scholar
  27. Ellsberg, Daniel. 1961. Risk, ambiguity, and the Savage axioms. Quarterly Journal of Economics 75:643–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Elster, Jon. 1979. Ulysses and the sirens: Studies in rationality and irrationality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Elster, Jon. 2000. Ulysses unbound: Studies in rationality, precommitment, and constraints. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Festa, Roberto. 1999. Scientific values, probability, and acceptance. In Incommensurability and translation: Kuhnian perspectives on scientific communication and theory change, ed. R. Rossini Favretti, G. Sandri, and R. Scazzieri, 323–338. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  31. Fishburn, Peter C. 1986. The axioms of subjective probability. Statistical Science 1:335–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fishburn, Peter C. 1991. Non-transitive preferences in decision theory. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 4:113–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Floridi, Luciano. 2004. Outline of a theory of strongly semantic information. Minds and Machines 14:197–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Forster, Malcolm, and Elliott Sober. 1994. How to tell when simpler, more unified, or less ad hoc theories will provide more accurate predictions. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45:1–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Franklin, James. 1987. Non-deductive logic in mathematics. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38:1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Franklin, James. 2001. The science of conjecture: Evidence and probability before Pascal. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Friedman, Nir, and Joseph Y. Halpern. 1995. Plausibility measures: A user’s guide. In Proceedings of the Eleventh Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI ’95), 175–184.Google Scholar
  38. Gärdenfors, Peter, and Nils-Eric Sahlin. 1982. Unreliable probabilities, risk taking, and decision making. Synthese 53:361–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gavroglu, Kostas. 1989. Simplicity and observability: When are particles elementary? Synthese 79:543–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Gilboa, Itzhak. 2009. Theory of decision under uncertainty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Good, I. J. 1962. Subjective probability as the measure of a non-measurable set. In Logic, methodology, and the philosophy of science, ed. Patrick Suppes, Ernest Nagel, and Alfred Tarski, 319–329. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Good, I. J. 1965. The estimation of probabilities: An essay on modern Bayesian methods. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  43. Gowans, Christopher W., ed. 1987. Moral dilemmas. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Greenspan, Patricia. 1983. Moral dilemmas and guilt. Philosophical Studies 43:117–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Halpern, Joseph Y. 2003. Reasoning about uncertainty. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  46. Hammond, Peter J. 1988. Consequentialist foundations for expected utility theory. Theory and Decision 25:25–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hempel, Carl G. 1960. Inductive inconsistencies. Synthese 12:439–469. In Aspects of Scientific Explanation, 53–79. New York: The Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan, 1965.Google Scholar
  48. Hintikka, Jaakko. 1970a. On semantic information. In Information and inference, ed. Jaakko Hintikka and Patrick Suppes, 3–27. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  49. Hintikka, Jaakko. 1970b. Surface information and depth information. In Information and inference, ed. Jaakko Hintikka and Patrick Suppes, 263–297. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  50. Hintikka, Jaakko. 1983. The game of language: Studies in game-theoretical semantics and its applications. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Hintikka, Jaakko, and Juhani Pietarinen. 1966. Semantic information and inductive logic. In Aspects of inductive logic, ed. Jaakko Hintikka and Patrick Suppes, 96–112. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  52. Hirshleifer, J. 1965. Investment decision under uncertainty—choice theoretic approaches. Quarterly Journal of Economics 79:509–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Huber, Franz. 2008. Assessing theories, Bayes style. Synthese 161:89–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Huemer, Michael. 2013. Transitivity, comparative value, and the methods of ethics. Ethics 123:318–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Hughes, R. I. G. 1980. Rationality and intransitive preferences. Analysis 40:132–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Irvine, William B. 2006. On desire: Why we want what we want. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. James, William. 1897. The will to believe, and other essays in popular philosophy. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  58. Jeffrey, Richard C. 1983. The logic of decision. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  59. Jeffreys, Harold. 1931. Scientific inference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Jeffreys, Harold. 1961. Theory of probability. 3rd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  61. Jensen, Niels Erik. 1967. An introduction to Bernoullian utility theory: I. Utility functions. Swedish Journal of Economics 69:163–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Kaplan, Mark. 1981. A Bayesian theory of rational acceptance. The Journal of Philosophy 78:305–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Kaplan, Mark. 1996. Decision theory as philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Keynes, John Maynard. 1921. A treatise on probability. London: Macmillan. (Mineola: Dover, 2004).Google Scholar
  65. Kieseppä, I. A. 1997. Akaike information criterion, curve-fitting, and the philosophical problem of simplicity. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48:21–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Klir, George J. 2006. Uncertainty and information: Foundations of generalized information theory. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  67. Knight, Frank H. 1921. Risk, uncertainty and profit. Boston: Hart, Schaffner & Marx. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  68. Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970a. Reflections on my critics. In Criticism and the growth of knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, 231–278. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970b. The structure of scientific revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  70. Kuhn, Thomas S. 1977. Objectivity, value judgment, and theory choice. In The essential tension, 320–339. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  71. Kuipers, Theo A. F. 2000. From instrumentalism to constructive realism. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Kyburg, Henry E., Jr. 1961. Probability and the logic of rational belief. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Kyburg, Henry E., Jr. 1979. Tyche and Athena. Synthese 40:415–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Lakatos, Imre, and Paul Feyerabend. 1999. For and against method, ed. Matteo Motterlini. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  75. Larmore, Charles. 2008. The autonomy of morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Laudan, Larry. 1984. Science and values: The aims of science and their role in scientific debate. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  77. Levi, Isaac. 1967. Gambling with truth: An essay on induction and the aims of science. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  78. Levi, Isaac. 1974. On indeterminate probabilities. The Journal of Philosophy 71:391–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Levi, Isaac. 1984. Decisions and revisions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Levi, Isaac. 1986. Hard choices: Decision making under unresolved conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Lewis, C. I. 1946. An analysis of knowledge and valuation. La Salle: Open Court.Google Scholar
  82. Lockhart, Ted. 2000. Moral uncertainty and its consequences. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Lycan, William G. 1998. Theoretical (epistemic) virtues. In Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. E. Craig. London: Routledge. http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/P050. Accessed 30 April 2014.
  84. Maher, Patrick. 1993. Betting on theories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Makin, Stephen C. 2012. Action individuation and deontic cycling. Ethics 123:129–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Morgenstern, Oskar. 1979. Some reflections on utility. In Expected utility hypotheses and the Allais paradox: Contemporary discussions of decisions under uncertainty with Allais’ rejoinder, ed. Maurice Allais and Ole Hagen, 175–183. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  87. Morton, Adam. 1991. Disasters and dilemmas. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  88. Morton, Adam, and Antti Karjalainen. 2003. Contrastive knowledge. Philosophical Explorations 6:74–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Narveson, Jan. 2004. Maxificing: Life on a budget; or, if you would maximize, then satisfice! In Satisficing and maximizing: Moral theorists on practical reason, ed. Michael Byron, 59–70. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  90. Ok, Efe A. 2002. Utility representation of an incomplete preference relation. Journal of Economic Theory 104:429–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Ok, Efe A., Juan Dubra, and Fabio Maccheroni. 2004. Expected utility theory without the completeness axiom. Journal of Economic Theory 115:118–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Peterson, Martin. 2009. An introduction to decision theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Pigozzi, Gabriella. 2009. Interview with John Woods. The Reasoner 3 (3): 1–4.Google Scholar
  94. Pollock, John L. 2006. Thinking about acting: Logical foundations for rational decision making. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Popper, Karl. 1959. The logic of scientific discovery. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  96. Popper, Karl. 1969. Conjectures and refutations. 3rd rev. ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  97. Popper, Karl. 1974. Replies to my critics. In The philosophy of Karl Popper, ed. Paul A. Schilpp, 959–1197. La Salle: Open Court.Google Scholar
  98. Popper, Karl. 1983. Realism and the aim of science. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  99. Quine, W. V, and J. S. Ullian. 1978. The web of belief. 2nd ed. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  100. Resnik, Michael D. 1987. Choices: An introduction to decision theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  101. Richmond, Samuel A. 1996. A simplification of the theory of simplicity. Synthese 107:373–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Russell, Bertrand. 1919. Introduction to mathematical philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  103. Salmon, Wesley. 1981. Rational prediction. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 32:115–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Salmon, Wesley. 1990. The appraisal of theories: Kuhn meets Bayes. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 2:325–332.Google Scholar
  105. Samuelson, Paul A. 1952. Probability, utility, and the independence axiom. Econometrica 20:670–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Savage, Leonard J. 1971. Elicitation of personal probabilities and expectations. Journal of the American Statistical Association 66:783–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Savage, Leonard J. 1972. The foundations of statistics. 2nd rev. ed. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  108. Schaffer, Jonathan. 2004. From contextualism to contrastivism. Philosophical Studies 119:73–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Schmidtz, David. 2004. Satisficing as a humanly rational strategy. In Satisficing and maximizing: Moral theorists on practical reason, ed. Michael Byron, 30–58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  110. Sextus Empiricus. (circa 200). Adversus mathematicos. English edition: Sextus Empiricus. 2005. Against the logicians (trans. and ed: Betts, Richard). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  111. Shannon, Claude E. 1948. A mathematical theory of communication. Bell System Technical Journal 27:379–423. In The mathematical theory of communication, ed. Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver, 29–115. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1949.Google Scholar
  112. Simon, Herbert A. 1982. Models of bounded rationality. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  113. Slote, Michael. 1989. Beyond optimizing: A study of rational choice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  114. Sober, Elliott. 1999. Testability. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 73:47–76.Google Scholar
  115. Sober, Elliott. 2002. Instrumentalism, parsimony, and the Akaike framework. Philosophy of Science 69 (Suppl 3): S112–S123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  116. Styron, William. 1979. Sophie’s choice. New York: Bantam.Google Scholar
  117. Temkin, Larry. 2012. Rethinking the good: Moral ideals and the nature of practical reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  118. Van Fraassen, Bas. 1980. The scientific image. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  119. Von Neumann, John, and Oskar Morgenstern. 1953. Theory of games and economic behavior. 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  120. Weirich, Paul. 2004. Realistic decision theory: Rules for nonideal agents in nonideal circumstances. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  121. Welch, John R. 2011. Decision theory and cognitive choice. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1:147–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  122. Welch, John R. 2012. Real-life decisions and decision theory. In Handbook of risk theory, ed. Sabine Roeser, Rafaela Hillerbrand, Per Sandin, and Martin Peterson, 545–573. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  123. Welch, John R. 2013. New tools for theory choice and theory diagnosis. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 44:318–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  124. Willenken, Tim. 2012. Deontic cycling and the structure of commonsense morality. Ethics 122:545–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  125. Zimmerman, Michael J. 1996. The concept of moral obligation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Louis University – Madrid CampusMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations