Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Talk: Toby Solomon (MCMP)

Location: Ludwigstr. 31, ground floor, room 021

09.06.2022 16:00  – 18:00 

Causal Decision Theory’s Problem with Authority (of the Laws of Nature)


The possibility of determinism raises a number of puzzles for Causal Decision Theory. These have been discussed at some length in the recent literature. However, as the literature on Free Will has taught us, chanciness raises just as many problems for notions of control and agency as determinism does. As it goes for Free Will, so it goes for Causal Decision Theory: the possibility that the laws of nature make our choices a matter of chance raises just as many problems for Causal Decision Theory as the possibility that our choices are predetermined. And things get worse: the formal tools of decision theory allow us to see that the same problem occurs even when the laws merely constrain how choices, without fully determining them. In short: Causal Decision Theory has a problem with the (possible) authority of the laws over our choices. In this talk I will offer a formal way to understand the problem in the abstract and show that it applies whether the laws, together with the past, predetermine, merely constrain, or make our choices a matter of chance. I will discuss how extending the problem to the latter two cases affects the relative merits of the three possible solutions to the problem (without defending any particular one).