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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.148) 5Consistency
Risk and Rationality

Lara Buchak

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses instrumental rationality and what decision theorists take it to consist in. It is claimed that to be decision-theoretically rational is to have consistent preferences and to prefer the means to one’s ends given one’s beliefs and desires. This chapter explains two additional axiomatic ways to see the dispute between expected utility theory and risk-weighted expected utility theory: as a dispute about whether Savage’s Sure-Thing Principle (STP) and the related Independence Axiom are genuine requirements of rationality or whether decision theorists should instead accept weakened versions of them. Attempts to show that STP and the Independence Axiom are self-evident constraints on instrumentally rational preferences—particularly those by Harsanyi, Samuelson, and Broome—are considered.

Keywords:   instrumental rationality, consistency, sure-thing principle, independence axiom, Savage, Harsanyi, Samuelson, Broome, expected utility, risk-weighted expected utility

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