Rationality and Choice

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Richard Bradley


This course is available on the MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy, MSc in Philosophy of Science and MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course examines the theory of rationality and rational decision making. It is in two parts (i) Probability and Decision: Probabilistic thinking, different interpretations of probability, decision making under risk, ignorance and uncertainty, the measurement of belief and desire, paradoxes of expected utility theory. (ii) Game Theory and Social Choice: Solution concepts for games, backward induction and hypothetical reasoning, bargaining theory, Arrow's Theorem, the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem, interpersonal comparability and Utilitarianism.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will submit a piece of written work each term and/or complete a number of exercises.

Indicative reading

Richard Jeffrey, The Logic of Decision, Michael Resnik, Choices: an introduction to decision theory, Martin Peterson An Introduction to Decision Theory, Amartya Sen Collective Choice and Social Welfare, Duncan Luce and Howard Raiffa Games and Decisions, Wulf Gaertner A Primer in Social Choice Theory, J. S. Kelly Social Choice Theory. An Introduction.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 34
Merit 35.8
Pass 13.2
Fail 17

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2016/17: 19

Average class size 2016/17: 9

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information