I research decision making under severe uncertainty.
This paper explores the value of information for agents who are uncertain between decision theories. My core result is the necessary and sufficient conditions for information value to be positive. Related topics are also explored. I argue we can compare decision theories and suggest new normative constraints for decision theories. Finally, I identify a problem with earlier interpretations of higher-order decision theory that gives insight into their nature.
How ought we to act when we are uncertain about morality? Arguably, we should be sensitive to the moral stakes according to various moral theories (perhaps by maximising expected moral value). Stake-sensitivity has appeal but may entail an implausible view about the comparability of judgements across moral theories. To be sensitive to stakes we must compare stakes. One response would be to construct comparability by normalising theories according to their statistical properties. I argue that this response fails to account for our intuitions about stake sensitivity.Rather than trying to defend a strong claim about intertheoretic comparisons we might defend a weaker claim. This weaker claim is one that everyone should accept.
I don’t currently have this available online, but I’d happily email a copy.
How can we make decisions when we are deeply uncertain of the principles of decision making? For example, when we are uncertain of which moral theory is true, or the correct decision rule to use, or when we are uncertain of some other norm. Recent arguments have centred around whether our decisions should be sensitive to this kind of ‘normative’ uncertainty. One argument against sensitivity invokes a regress of higher-order-norms. If we try to make decisions that are sensitive to normative uncertainty, then we will ascend the levels of this regress and fail to make any decision at all. I argue that we can make decisions despite this regress. In forced choices we are permitted to do the best we can. Upon reflection it is clear that further deliberation, including appeal to higher-order-norms, is also an option. Thus, all choices are forced between ordinary options and deliberation. We should only deliberate when this is one of the subjectively best options given current considerations. The regress does not inhibit decision making as we need not, and cannot, always deliberate further.
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Updated August 2021