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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 118, Issue 6, June 2021

William MacAskill, Aron Vallinder, Caspar Oesterheld, Carl Shulman, Johannes Treutlein
Pages 320-342

The Evidentialist's Wager

Suppose that an altruistic agent who is uncertain between evidential and causal decision theory finds herself in a situation where these theories give conflicting verdicts. We argue that even if she has significantly higher credence in CDT, she should nevertheless act in accordance with EDT. First, we claim that the appropriate response to normative uncertainty is to hedge one's bets. That is, if the stakes are much higher on one theory than another, and the credences you assign to each of these theories are not very different, then it is appropriate to choose the option that performs best on the high-stakes theory. Second, we show that, given the assumption of altruism, the existence of correlated decision makers will increase the stakes for EDT but leave the stakes for CDT unaffected. Together these two claims imply that whenever there are sufficiently many correlated agents, the appropriate response is to act in accordance with EDT.

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