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Why the angels cannot choose

Alexander, J. McKenzie (2012) Why the angels cannot choose. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 90 (4). pp. 619-640. ISSN 0004-8402

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00048402.2011.606277


Decision theory faces a number of problematic gambles which challenge it to say what value an ideal rational agent should assign to the gamble, and why. Yet little attention has been devoted to the question of what an ideal rational agent is, and in what sense decision theory may be said to apply to one. I show that, given one arguably natural set of constraints on the preferences of an idealised rational agent, such an agent is forced to be indifferent among entire families of goods, and hence cannot choose among them. This result illustrates the dangers of speaking of the choices of an ‘ideal rational agent’ when one does not make precise the exact nature of the idealising assumptions. The result may also be viewed as providing an upper bound on the kinds of idealising assumptions which can be made for rational agents, beyond which the very concept of choice becomes attenuated.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 Australasian Association of Philosophy
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2012 07:36
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:27

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