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    A critique of benchmark theory

    Bassett, Robert (2015) A critique of benchmark theory. Synthese 192 (1), pp. 241-267. ISSN 0039-7857.

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    Benchmark theory (BT), introduced by Ralph Wedgwood, departs from decision theories of pure expectation maximization like evidential decision theory (EDT) and causal decision theory (CDT) and instead ranks actions according to the desirability of an outcome they produce in some state of affairs compared to a standard—a benchmark—for that state of affairs. Wedgwood motivates BT through what he terms Gandalf’s principle, that the merits of an action in a given state should be evaluated relative only to the performances of other actions in that state, and not to their performances in other states. Although BT succeeds in selecting intuitively rational actions in a number of cases—including some in which EDT or CDT seem to go wrong—it places constraints on rational decision-making that either lack motivation or are untenable. Specifically, I argue that as it stands BT is committed both to endorsing and rejecting the independence of irrelevant alternatives. Furthermore its requirement that weakly dominated actions be excluded from consideration of rational action lacks motivation and threatens to collide with traditional game theory. In the final section of the paper, I construct a counterexample to BT.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Benchmark theory, Wedgwood, Causal decision theory, Newcomb’s problem, Evidential decision theory, Game theory
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2015 13:31
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:14


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