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Safeguards of a disunified mind

Rabinowicz, Wlodek (2014) Safeguards of a disunified mind. Inquiry, 57 (3). pp. 356-383. ISSN 0020-174X

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Identification Number: 10.1080/0020174X.2014.894274


The papers focuses on pragmatic arguments for various rationality constraints on a decision maker’s state of mind: on her beliefs or preferences. An argument of this kind typically targets constraint violations. It purports to show that a violator of a given constraint can be confronted with a decision problem in which she will act to her guaranteed disadvantage. Dramatically put, she can be exploited by a clever bookie who doesn’t know more than the agent herself. Examples of pragmatic arguments of this kind are synchronic Dutch Books, for the standard probability axioms, diachronic Dutch Books, for the more controversial principles of reflection and conditionalization, and Money Pumps, for the acyclicity requirement on preferences. The paper suggests that the proposed exploitation set-ups share a common feature. If the violator of a given constraint is logically and mathematically competent, and if she prefers to be better off rather than worse off, she can be exploited only if she is disunified in her decision-making, i.e. only if she makes decisions on various issues she faces separately rather than jointly. Unification in decision making is relatively unproblematic in synchronic contexts, but it may be costly and inconvenient diachronically. On this view, therefore, pragmatic arguments should be seen as delivering conditional recommendations: If you want to afford disunification, then you’d better satisfy these constraints. They identify safeguards of a disunified mind. Isaac Levi’s position on these matters is diametrically different. According to Levi, only synchronic pragmatic arguments are valid (indeed, categorically so). The diachronic ones, he argues, lack any validity at all. This line of reasoning is questioned in the paper.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2016 09:09
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 02:55

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