| Part 1: Reasons, Rationality and Reasoning
| The first part will introduce different notions of rationality found in the philosophical literature. We will examine two diametrically opposed views of what reason can tell us about (rational) action, exemplified by two great philosophers of the Enlightenment. David Hume asserted that reason is a "slave of the passions" and unable to determine more than appropriate means to a given end, thus anticipating the modern instrumental conception. Immanuel Kant, however, argued that reason is able to provide us with a universal law of rational action, the categorical imperative. This dichotomy is important in recent debates as well, and will accompany us throughout the course.
|| Introduction. The first lecture will introduce the main topics of the course. The readings for this lecture are:
- G. Harman. "Rationality" in: Reasoning, Meaning and Mind, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pgs. 9 - 45, 1999. (this will be made available in class)
- Chapter 1 of [RC]: "Feasibility and Desirability"
||Reasons, Reasoning and Logic. This lecture goes into more detail about the complex relationship between logic, reasoning and reasons. The readings for this lecture are:
- G. Harman. "Rationality" in: Reasoning, Meaning and Mind, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pgs. 9 - 45, 1999. (focus on this paper for your one-page summary)
- K. Stenning and M. van Lambalgen, Chapter 2: "The Anatomy of Logic" in Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science, The MIT Press, 2008.
- J. Adler, "Introduction: Philosophical Foundations" in [REAS]
| Part 2: Theoretical and Practical Rationality
| This part will examine basic questions about the nature of practical and theoretical rationality. Should a rational agent always adopt the necessary means to achieve a desired goal? Why should rational (graded) beliefs conform to the laws of probability? What is the relationship between the
laws of (classical) logic and rational belief? It is clearly not rational to hold the belief that p and that not-p, but what about deductive closure: if an agent believes p and that p implies q (and is interested in whether q is true), should the agent then believe q?
|| Practical Reasoning. After finishing the discussion on reasoning (see the slides above), we go into more detail about practical reasoning and what constitutes a reason for action. (You may choose either the Williams article or the Kolodny article for your 1-page summary.)
||Rationality Constraints. We start by discussing the nature of normativity and reasons (we focus on the Williams piece below). We then discuss to important paradoxes about rational beliefs: The Preface Paradox and the Lottery Paradox.
- B. Williams, Internal and External Reasons in: [REAS]
(also see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article: Reasons for Action: Internal vs. External)
- D. Makinson, The Paradox of the Preface, Analysis, 25: 205–207, 1965. (use this for your 1-page discussion)
- I. Douven and T. Williamson, Generalizing the Lottery Paradox, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 54:4, pgs. 755 - 779, 2006.
|| Dutch Book Arguments. This lecture will explore rationality constraints on graded beliefs.
- J. Joyce, Bayesianism in [HR]
- I. Gilboa, Chapter 5: "Probability and Statistics", in [RC]
||Dutch Book Arguments and Representation Theorems. We continue our discussion of the Dutch book argument and move on to Savage's Representation Theorem. Note that
this weeks class will end early. You can use either Joyce's article or Chapter 2 from Christensen for this week's summary.
|| Review of the Material So Far, Newcomb's Paradox and the Allais Paradox. You can use either of the following two articles for your 1-page summary.
- R. M. Sainsbury, Section 1: Newcomb's Problem of Chapter 4: Paradoxes in [REAS] (handed out in class)
- I. Gilboa, Questions in Decision Theory, Annual Reviews in Economics, 2 (2010), pgs. 1-19.
| Fall Break/Exam Week
||No Class: Fall Break (October 16 - 23)
||No Class Scheduled: Exam Week (essay questions due November 4th)
| Tutorial: Reasoning about Probability
|| Tutorial Questions. This class is start with 30-40 minutes where the students can think about five questions about probability (mostly puzzles and paradoxes analogous to the ones we discussed over the past few weeks). (Of course, feel free to discuss the possible solutions which each other.) Then, a guest lecturer (Dominik Klein) will discuss possible solutions to the questions.
| Part 3: Rational Choice Theory
Rational choice theory, the core of the economic approach to human behavior, has
become an influential approach in all of the social sciences. What makes individual
actions rational? Rational choice theory offers a very simple answer: actions are
rational if they reflect the maximizing of a consistent preference ordering. Is this a
plausible account of human behavior? How can it be defended? One measure of the success of rational choice theory, perhaps, is for how long it has
been able to withstand criticism. Recent developments, especially in behavioral
economics, however, have succeeded in putting the standard model under pressure.
We will also examine different objections to the standard model of rational choice.
|| Instrumental Rationality and Utility Theory. We will discuss some important foundational
issues in the theory of rational choice. Choose from any of the following for your 1-page summary:
- I. Gilboa, Chapter 2: "Utility Theory", in [RC] (Dominik will hand copies of this out in class on Nov. 4)
- G. Gaus, Chapter 1: "Instrumental and Economic Rationality" and Chapter 2: "Utility Theory" in [OPPE]
|| Rational Choice Theory. We will continue the discussion of (ordinal/cardinal) utility theory. For the 1-page summary, please choose any of the following two papers:
Another paper that is definitely worth reading (though is rather advanced) is:
- J. Elster, "The Nature and Choice of Rational Choice Explanation" in Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science (This was made available in class)
- J. Pollock, How do you Maximize Expectation Value?, Nous, Vol. 17, No. 3 (1983), pp. 409-421
| Part 4: Rationality in Interaction
John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern wrote in their
seminal book, often cited as the starting point of modern day game theory, that "we
wish to find the mathematically complete principles which define 'rational behavior' for the participants [in a game]" (pg. 31, Theory of
Games and Economic Behavior, Princeton University Press, 1944). To what
extent they and subsequent game theorists have succeeded in this lofty goal is the subject of much debate. After introducing some basic concepts
in game theory, we will focus on the well-known Prisoner's Dilemma, which seems to pose some problems for the instrumental conception of rationality. Time-permitting,
we will also consider another important issue in the foundations of game theory: the paradox of backwards induction, which seems to pose a problem for the
key assumption that it is common knowledge that players "behave rationally".
||Introduction to Game Theory. This class will introduce some basic concepts of game theory, focusing on games of coordination and the prisoner's dilemma.
- I. Gilboa, Chapter 7: "Games and Equilibrium" in [RC] (Copies available in class)
- C. Bicchieri, Rationality and Game Theory in [HR]
- G. Gaus, Chapter 4: "Game Theory" in [OPPE]
|| Game Theory: Common Knowledge of Rationality. We will continue our discussion of game theory focusing on the the underlying assumption of common knowledge of rationality, the backwards induction paradox and finally focus on issues that arise when trying to define the "best" outcome for a group. You can choose any of the following papers for your 1-page summary.
- P. Pettit and R. Sugden, The Backward Induction Paradox, Journal of Philosophy, 86:4, pgs. 169 - 182, 1989.
- P. Vanderschraaf and G. Sillari Common Knowledge in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007. (focus on Section 1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.5 and 4)
- S. Kuhn, Prisoner's Dilemma in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007.
- S. Brams, P. Edelman and P. Fishburn, Paradoxes of Fair Division, Journal of Philosophy, 98:6, pgs. 300 - 314, 2001.
| Part 5: Group Rationality
How can a group of "rational" individuals arrive at a rational choice? This module will
introduce the key issues in social choice theory (eg., Arrow's Theorem on the "impossibility" of a rational group decision procedure) and, time-permitting,
related work on judgement aggregation.
||Introduction to Social Choice Theory. We will introduce the basic ideas of Social Choice Theory (and Judgement Aggregation). You can
choose any of the following for your 1-page summary. Note that your 2-3 page proposal for your final paper is also due before before this class.
- G. Gaus, Social Choice, Chapter 5 in [OPPE]
- I. Gilboa, Aggregation and Preferences, Chapter 6 in [RC]
- P. Pettit, Rationality, Reasoning and Group Agency, Dialectica Vol. 61, No. 4 (2007), pp. 495–519
||Topics in Voting Theory and Concluding Remarks. We will finish our tour of social choice theory with a discussion of some key issues in voting theory. We will then conclude with a discussion of the broad issues we touched on in this course. For your last 1-page summary, you can either choose one of the following papers to read or write some general comments about the topics covered in this course (eg., which topics you found particularly interesting or which topics you feel we should have spent more/less time discussing).
- L. Blume and D. Easley, Rationality in the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2007.
- K. Arrow, Mathematical Models in the Social Sciences, The Policy Sciences, 1951 (an old paper that is somewhat out-of-date, but contains some very interesting discussion)
- I. Gilboa, Utility and Well-Being, Chapter 10 in [RC]