Expectational v. Instrumental Reasoning: What Statistics Contributes to Practical Reasoning

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Mariam Thalos


Utility theories—both Expected Utility (EU) and non-Expected Utility (non-EU) theories—offer numericalized representations of classical principles meant for the regulation of choice under conditions of risk—a type of formal representation that reduces the representation of risk to a single number. I shall refer to these as risk-numericalizing theories of decision. I shall argue that risk--numericalizing theories (referring both to the representations and to the underlying axioms that render numericalization possible) are not satisfactory answers to the question: “How do I take the (best) means to my ends?” In other words, they are inadequate or incomplete as instrumental theories. They are inadequate because they are poor answers to the question of what it is for an option to be instrumental towards an end. To say it another way, they do not offer a sufficiently rich account of what it is for something to be a means (an instrument) toward an end.


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Thalos, Mariam. 2017. “Expectational V. Instrumental Reasoning: What Statistics Contributes to Practical Reasoning”. Diametros, no. 53 (October):125-49. https://doi.org/10.13153/diam.53.0.1104.
Ethics and Uncertainty
Author Biography

Mariam Thalos, University of Tennessee, Department of Philosophy

Mariam Thalos, ProfessorDepartment of PhilosophyUniversity of Tennessee, Knoxville801 McClung TowerKnoxville TN 37996-0480US

E-mail: m.thalos@gmail.com

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