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LSE PhD Student Session: Ze’ev Goldschmidt and Nick Makins
19 February 2020, 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Ze’ev Goldschmidt: “Foundations for Knowledge Based Decision Theories“
Abstract: Several philosophers have proposed knowledge-based decision theories (KDTs) – theories that require agents to maximize expected utility as yielded by utility and probability functions that depend on the agent’s knowledge. Proponents of KDTs argue that such theories are motivated by Knowledge-Reasons norms that require agents to act only on reasons that they know. However, no formal derivation of KDTs from Knowledge-Reasons norms has been suggested, and it is not clear how such norms justify the particular ways in which KDTs relate knowledge and rational action. In this paper I suggest a new axiomatic method for justifying KDTs and providing them with stronger normative foundations. I argue that such theories may be derived from constraints on the relation between knowledge and preference, and that these constraints may be evaluated relative to intuitions regarding practical reasoning. To demonstrate this, I offer a representation theorem for a central KDT and briefly evaluate it through its underlying axioms.
Nick Makins: “A Role for Desirability in Choice Under Moral Uncertainty“
Abstract: This paper presents a unifying diagnosis of a number of important problems facing existing models of rational choice under moral uncertainty and proposes a possible remedy. I argue that the problems of (i) intertheoretic comparisons, (ii) swamping by “fanatical” theories and (iii) severely limited scope all stem from the way in which values are assigned to options in procedures such as Maximisation of Expected Choice-Worthiness. I argue that, by assigning values to options under a given moral theory by asking something like “if this theory were true, how much would I desire this option?” rather than “if this theory were true, how much value would this theory assign to this option?”, these problems can be avoided, while the appealing features of these accounts are maintained. This amendment provides a role for desirability that is curiously absent from the existing discussion of what agents rationally ought to do when they are uncertain about what they morally ought to do.