Philosophy 290-1

Spring 2010

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-1 Graduate Seminar: Decision Theory: Preferences, Beliefs, and Desires Buchak W 4-6 234 Moses Hall

At its core, decision theory is a mathematical theory that relates preference, belief, and desire. This theory is used in a variety of ways: to guide action, to explain and predict behavior, to normatively assess choices, and to gain access to mental states. However, before it can be adequate for any of these purposes, its theoretical core needs to be expanded upon. In particular, the notions of preference, belief, and desire all need to be interpreted.
This seminar explores foundational issues in decision theory. In particular, we will focus on debates surrounding the analysis of preference, belief, and desire. Topics include the relationship between preference and behavior; the relationship between desire and reason; incommensurable values; substantive theories of utility; whether degrees of belief can be vague; and other issues. In addition to their importance to decision theory, these debates touch on issues in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind.

Requirements: graduate status or permission of the instructor. No background in decision theory is required, but students should be comfortable with technical material.