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Title:Newcomb's Problem
Author(s):Caughran, Jackie Ray
Department / Program:Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Newcomb's Problem is a hypothetical situation wherein you are called upon to choose between two possible but mutually exclusive acts for both of which there are seemingly compelling, if not conclusive, arguments. As such it is a challenge to those who would construct a coherent and complete theory of rational decision. After introducing and clarifying the problem I suggest, following Robert Nozick, that the conflict, if there be such, is between a policy of choosing a dominant act and an policy of maximizing expected utility. Both of these policies are discussed and strengthened. I then argue that if Newcomb's Problem is interpreted in one way, the result is that we have conclusive reasons for choosing both acts because one act is dominant while the other maximizes utility. I criticize and reject the view of Alan Gibbard and William Harper that the dominant act is also the utility maximizing act. The upshot is that the problem itself must be rejected because it requires either that the agent hold to an inconsistent set of beliefs or that the agent does not have the choice of acts that the problem postulates. If Newcomb's Problem be reinterpreted so as to avoid both of these results, then it ceases to be paradoxical. Hence, the challenge is met by rejecting the problem or interpreting it in a way that allows for a solution within the confines of an already available theory of rational decision.
Issue Date:1980
Description:141 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8017918
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-14
Date Deposited:1980

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