Signe Savén at the Higher Seminar in Practical Philosophy, "Another take on the issue of Fanaticism”

2 June 2022 13:15 to 15:00 Seminar

Abstract: Maximizing expected value is a common approach to decision-making under risk. It holds that the decision-maker ought to pick the option with the highest expected value (i.e. the sum of the probability weighted value of each possible outcome). In many cases, this seems like a reasonable approach (e.g. when deciding whether to leave home with or without an umbrella). In other cases, this approach seems crazy (e.g. if we end up in a discussion with someone who promises us an astronomically large reward in exchange for all our money). In this talk, I will explore why this might be the case, by departing from and discussing what has been referred to as Fanaticism. Roughly, fanaticism can be understood as the idea that tiny probabilities can always be compensated for by sufficiently large values. When maximizing expected value, this means that an option that is almost entirely certain not to pay off can be singled out as the one that ought to be chosen, which seems absurd. The debate about how to avoid the implications of Fanaticism has been centered around tiny probabilities and enormous values. Suggested solutions out of the seeming absurdity include placing a cap on value and discounting probabilities. I will argue that neither of these solutions are satisfactory, and sketch out an alternative understanding of what the real issue at stake is. This alternative understanding can provide an explanation of why one decision-maker is behaving rationally whereas another is not, even when they both face a decision with equally enormous values and equally tiny probabilities. ********************************* Signe's talk will be self-contained.

The seminar takes place on Thursday June 2nd in LUX B538 but it is possible to attend via zoom.

About the event:

2 June 2022 13:15 to 15:00

LUX B538


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