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Risk and Rationality$
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Lara Buchak

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672165

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672165.001.0001

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(p.114) 4Redescription
Risk and Rationality

Lara Buchak

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses a strategy for responding to counterexamples to expected utility theory. According to this strategy, one can redescribe purported counterexamples so that they no longer violate expected utility theory, by individuating outcomes more narrowly. This chapter considers three proposals for when the redescription strategy can be employed, by Broome, Pettit, and Dreier. It is argued that while the strategy does succeed against many of the purported counterexamples in the literature, it does not succeed against the risk-related counterexamples. The chapter also provides a mathematical argument to the effect that if individuals really are risk-weighted expected utility maximizers, then attempts to describe them as expected utility maximizers will face a “proliferation problem”: there will be too many ways to characterize their beliefs, desires, and decision rules.

Keywords:   redescription, individuation, expected utility, risk-weighted expected utility, Broome, Pettit, Dreier, proliferation

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