Colloquium: Febuary 5th

Title: Taming Infinite Utility

Speaker: Paul Bartha (UBC)

Friday, Feb 5th at 2:30pm in CLE A203


Some decisions seem to involve apparently “priceless” objectives or outcomes.  Pascal’s Wager and the St. Petersburg game are familiar examples from decision theory, and some environmental ethicists argue that we should attribute infinite value to parts of the environment. Critics charge that the concept of infinite value is meaningless (Broome 2008) or leads to immense technical and philosophical difficulties (Colyvan et al. 2010).  Furthermore, infinite utility has no place in standard decision theory (McClennen 1994).  I outline the major criticisms of infinite utility, argue that the concept is well-defined and useful, and survey the advantages and shortcomings of four different approaches to representing infinite utility.