Summer Workshop on Decision, Desire and Diffusion

Date: June 25, Tuesday

Location: Dennis Room, Philosophy Hall, Berkeley


9:30-10: Breakfast (Dennis Room)

10-11:30: Ben Holguín (Johns Hopkins): “Wanting at Will”

11:30-1:00: Melissa Fusco (Columbia), “Decision and Chance Updating”

1-2:30: Lunch break

2:30-4: Calum McNamara (Michigan/Yale): “Only CDT Defers to Experts”

4-5:30: Zach Barnett (Notre Dame): “Diffuse Harm and Fortuna’s Wheel”

5:30: Drinks


Melissa Fusco, Decision and Chance Updating

I advocate a hybrid decision theory, coinciding sometimes with (traditional) Evidential Decision Theory, but usually with (traditional) Causal Decision Theory, which is inspired by recent work on unified and fully compositional approaches to the probabilities of conditionals (Bacon, 2015; Goldstein & Santorio, 2021; Schultheis, 2023). The hybrid theory gives us interesting results when agents also defer to chance, and the partitionality of options fails; in particular the hybrid theory’s verdicts can span the expected utilities as- signed by EDT and CDT. Moreover, the credences it is epistemically rational to assign to these conditionals are normative for rational update. This implies some exceptions to Conditionalization which mirror challenges to Conditionalization that arise when the partitionality of information fails (Schoenfield 2017 a.o.). In this talk, I’ll look at the Dutch Book argument for Conditionalization in this context.

Calum McNamara, Only CDT Defers to Experts

The philosophical literature contains numerous proposals about how you should defer to expert opinions. For example, there are Reflection principles, New Reflection principles, and the more recent principles of Trust. Each of these principle has been defended on the grounds that, if you defer to experts in the way it suggests, then you’ll make better decisions in expectation. However, one issue with extant defenses of Reflection, New Reflection, etc., is that they rely on the tools of expected utility theory (EU theory). And many philosophers reject EU theory, since it’s insufficiently general. In its place, they endorse some form of suppositional decision theory, like causal decision theory (CDT) or evidential decision theory (EDT). A question thus arises: Do the defenses of expert deference principles like Reflection carry over to the suppositional setting? In this talk, I’ll show that only one suppositional decision theory preserves the idea that it’s good to defer to experts while you’re making a decision. This is CDT—or rather, a particular version thereof.

Ben Holguín, Wanting at Will

This talk defends the view that we can (and often do) exercise direct voluntaristic control over our desires. Somewhat more precisely, I will argue that one can rationally prefer A to B even while knowing that A and B are equally desirable, and that one can rationally fail to prefer A to B even while knowing that A is more desirable than B. In these sorts of cases, one’s preferences (and thus one’s desires) are a matter of one’s choosing. I will then explore some consequences of these claims for questions concerning functionalist theories of mind, the rationality of akrasia, and the subject matter of decision theory.

Zach Barnett, Diffuse Harm and Fortuna’s Wheel

A diffuse harm hurts many people a little; a concentrated harm hurts one person a lot. In some sense, diffuse harms seem less bad than their relevantly similar concentrated counterparts. But this tempting and widely endorsed thought is surprisingly susceptible to criticism. Some versions of it are actually in tension with the transitivity of better than. And virtually all versions of the tempting thought commit one to treating distribution-preserving rearrangements unequally— even when the initial welfare distribution was unearned and arbitrary. Finally, it is argued that, in the real world, the expected damage of a diffuse harm (e.g. shortening a billion lives by a second each) is approximately equal to the expected damage of the relevantly similar concentrated harm (e.g. shortening one life by a billion seconds). Diffuse harm is easily underestimated.

Updated on 2024-06-25 09:29:51 -0700 by Xueyin (Snow) Zhang