Philosophy 290-7

Fall 2008

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-7 Graduate Seminar: Decision Theory Buchak W 1-3 234 Moses Hall

What are the constraints on rational preferences? This course will consider various answers and approaches to this question within decision theory.
In decision theory, the question of what it is rational to prefer or decide is tied up both with what it is rational to believe and with what it is rational to desire. The first section of the course will examine proposed constraints on beliefs, desires, and preferences at a time by a single individual. We will examine standard decision theory and its axioms, as well as various ways to argue for these axioms. We will also examine significant challenges to the theory. The second section of the course will consider constraints on preferences, beliefs, and desires across time, including both forward-looking constraints, such as “reflection principles,” and backwards-looking constraints, such as following through on commitments; and related puzzles. The third section of the course will consider constraints across persons. We will consider whether the existence of disagreement - with a peer, or with one’s counterfactual self - should compel a rational epistemic agent to change her beliefs. Finally, we will examine what, if any, relations there are among problems of decision making across time, across persons, and across possible worlds.

This course is intended for graduate students in philosophy; no background in decision theory or formal epistemology is required. One of my goals in teaching this course is to introduce “newcomers” to the subject. I will simplify the technical material for easier accessibility, but students wishing to go more in depth will have the opportunity.