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Counterfactual desirability

Bradley, Richard and Stefansson, H. Orii (2017) Counterfactual desirability. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 68 (2). pp. 485-533. ISSN 0007-0882

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Identification Number: 10.1093/bjps/axv023


The desirability of what actually occurs is often influenced by what could have been. Preferences based on such value dependencies between actual and counterfactual outcomes generate a class of problems for orthodox decision theory, the best-known perhaps being the so-called Allais paradox. In this article we solve these problems by extending Richard Jeffrey’s decision theory to counterfactual prospects, using a multidimensional possible-world semantics for conditionals, and showing that preferences that are sensitive to counterfactual considerations can still be desirability-maximizing. We end the article by investigating the conditions necessary and sufficient for a desirability function to be a standard expected-utility function. It turns out that the additional conditions imply highly implausible epistemic principles.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 The Authors
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Research centres and groups > Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS)
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2015 13:44
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2020 02:15
Projects: AH/J006033/1 to R.B., AH/I003118/1, 14-AXA-PDOC-222
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council, AXA Research Fund

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