DS-2020-16: Where Responsibility Takes You: Logics of Agency, Counterfactuals and Norms

DS-2020-16: Canavotto, Ilaria (2020) Where Responsibility Takes You: Logics of Agency, Counterfactuals and Norms. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam.

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This dissertation studies logical systems merging insights from logics of agency, counterfactuals, and norms. The aim is to develop tools to address three general questions related to a formal analysis of causal responsibily (i.e., responsibility for what happened, regardless of one's intentions or beliefs): How can we model the agency of individuals and groups in causing certain results in complex multiagent scenarios? What are the logical properties and epistemic value of counterfactuals concerning what can be, or could have been, done in the course of time? Which rules govern normative reasoning?

The first question derives from the fact that agents are only responsible for what they caused. The second arises because causal responsibility is typically determined by considering what would have happened had the relevant agents acted differently. The third stems from the fact that agents are responsible for something only if what they did was wrong according to some moral or legal norms.

In this work, we propose logical systems to begin to answer the aforementioned questions. A characterizing feature of our contribution is the central role played by the notions of agency and action in the formal frameworks we advance. The thesis is organized as follows.

In Part I, we develop logics to reason about causal responsibility and to analyze the interaction between agency and counterfactual reasoning. Our point of departure is one of the most prominent logics of agency in the philosophical literature, namely STIT logic (the logic of "seeing to it that"). We start, in Chapter 3, by refining STIT logic in order to include genuinely causal notions in it. We formalize three key tests to ascribe causal responsibility, giving rise to three corresponding STIT operators, and use them to analyze individual and group responsibility in a number of examples. Chapter 4 extends the framework introduced in Chapter 3 and combines it with a logic of counterfactuals. We present three new STIT semantics for counterfactuals and discuss important philosophical and logical implications deriving from them. In Chapter 5, we use techniques from STIT logic, epistemic logic, and subject matter semantics to advance a model of the mental activity that underlies the evaluation of counterfactual statements, namely imagination intended as reality oriented mental simulation. We consider what the logic of such activity is, what its voluntary and involuntary components are, and, relatedly, how it generates knowledge.

In Part II, we study deontic logics to analyze the senses in which doing something can be "wrong." The hallmark of the logical systems developed in this part is that they are based on dynamic logics, i.e., logics modeling actions as transitions from an initial-state (or model) to an end-state (or model). Chapter 6 presents a dynamic deontic logic characterized by both a notion of ideality and a notion of optimality. We use these notions to provide a fine-grained deontic classification of states, actions, and sequences of actions and to define deontic operators expressing so-called actual prescriptions -- prescriptions that are sensitive to what can actually be done, given the circumstances. Actual prescriptions are of the greatest importance in situations in which the agents cannot avoid violating some norms. Chapter 7 zooms in on a main category of such situations, namely those resulting from the presence of a normative conflict. By relying on the resources of explicit modal logic and dynamic epistemic logic, we design a framework to model the dynamics that gives rise to a conflict. We show how the resulting system can be used to keep track of the agents who generated a conflict and to capture distinctive aspects of cases of conscientious objection and civil disobedience.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Report Nr: DS-2020-16
Series Name: ILLC Dissertation (DS) Series
Year: 2020
Subjects: Logic
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/2185

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