Wilhelm and Lando on centred credence and chance

Wilhelm (2021) and Lando (2022) argue that the Sleeping Beauty problem reveals a flaw in standard accounts of credence and chance. The alleged flaw is that these accounts can't explain how attitudes towards centred propositions are constrained by information about chance.

I assume you remember the Sleeping Beauty problem. (If not, look it up: it's fun.) Wilhelm makes the following assumptions about Beauty's beliefs on Monday morning.

First, Beauty can't be sure that it is Monday:

Gustafsson on decision-making under ignorance

Decision theory textbooks often distinguish between decision-making under risk and decision-making under uncertainty or ignorance. The former is supposed to arise in situations where the agent can assign probabilities to the relevant states, the second in situations where they can't.

I've always found this puzzling. Why would a decision maker be unable to assign probabilities (even vague or indeterminate ones) to the states? I don't think there are any such situations.

I haven't looked at the history of this distinction, but I suspect it comes from von Neumann, who (I suspect) had no concept of subjective probability. If the only relevant probabilities are objective, then of course it may happen that an agent can't make their choice depend on the probability of the states because these probabilities may not be known.

DiPaolo on second best epistemology

Covid finally caught me, so I fell behind with everything. Let's try get back to the blogging schedule. This time, I want to recommend DiPaolo (2019). It's a great paper that emphasizes the difference between ideal ("primary") and non-ideal ("secondary") norms in epistemology.

The central idea is that epistemically fallible agents are subject to different norms than infallible agents. An ideal rational agent would, for example, never make a mistake when dividing a restaurant bill. For them, double-checking the result is a waste of time. They shouldn't do it. We non-ideal folk, by contrast, should sometimes double-check the result. As the example illustrates, the "secondary" norms for non-ideal agents aren't just softer versions of the "primary" norms for ideal agents. They can be entirely different.

Cariani on the modal future

I've been reading Fabrizio Cariani's The Modal Future (Cariani (2021)). It's great. I have a few comments.

This book is about the function of expressions like 'will' or 'gonna' that are typically used to talk about the future, as in (1).

(1) I will write the report.

Intuitively, (1) states that a certain kind of writing event takes place – but not right here and now. 'Will' is a displacement operator, shifting the point of evaluation. Where exactly does the writing event have to take place in order for (1) to be true?

Here's a natural first idea. (1) is true as long as a relevant writing event takes place at some point in the future. This yields the standard analysis of 'will' in tense logic:

Dietrich and List on reasons

Let's return to my recent explorations into the formal structure of reasons. One important approach that I haven't talked about yet is that of Dietrich and List, described in Dietrich and List (2013a), Dietrich and List (2013b), and Dietrich and List (2016).

Gallow on causal counterfactuals without miracles and backtracking

Gallow (2023) spells out an interventionist theory of counterfactuals that promises to preserve two apparently incompatible intuitions.

Suppose the laws of nature are deterministic. What would have happened if you had chosen some act that you didn't actually choose? The two apparently incompatible intuitions are:

(A1) Had you chosen differently, no law of nature would have been violated.

(A2) Had you chosen differently, the initial conditions of the universe would not have been changed.

Rejecting one of these intuitions is widely thought to spell trouble for Causal Decision Theory. Gallow argues that they can both be respected. I'll explain how. Then I'll explain why I'm not convinced.

Kocurek on chance and would

A lot of rather technical papers on conditionals have come out in recent years. Let's have a look at one of them: Kocurek (2022).

The paper investigates Al Hajek's argument (e.g. in Hájek (2021)) that "chance undermines would". It begins with a neat observation.

Sher on the weight of reasons

A few thoughts on Sher (2019), which I found advertised in Nair (2021).

This (long and rich) paper presents a formal model of reasons and their weight, with the aim of clarifying how different reasons for or against an act combine.

Sher's guiding idea is to measure the weight by which a reason supports an act in terms of the effect that coming to know the reason would have on the act's desirability.

Kammerer on acquaintance and certainty

Many experiences have phenomenal properties: there is something it is like to have them. A puzzling fact about these properties is that we appear to know about them in a special, direct fashion: we are "acquainted" with the phenomenal properties of our experiences. Another, related puzzle is that we appear to know about these properties with absolute certainty: if you have an experience as of looking at a red wall, you can conclusively rule out the possibility that you have an experience as of looking at a green wall.

In Schwarz (2018), I put forward a tentative explanation of these facts. I argued that it would be useful for an agent in a world like ours to have a credence function defined over a space that includes special "imaginary" propositions that are causally tied to stimulations of their sense organs in such a way that any given stimulation makes the agent certain of a corresponding imaginary proposition. What we conceptualise as propositions about phenomenal properties (of our experience), I argued, might be such imaginary propositions.

Revised decision theory notes

I have revised the lecture notes for my "Belief, Desire, and Rational Choice" course, making lots of small improvements (I hope) here and there. The revised notes are here, and the LaTeX source is on github.

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