Not available in 2017/18
Rationality and Choice

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Richard Bradley LAK2.03


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Available only for 4th year students in the BSc. PPE


Students must have completed Formal Methods of Philosophical Argumentation (PH104).

Students must have completed Microeconomic Principles I (EC201) or Microeconomic Principles II (EC202)

Course content

This course introduces the three main components of rational choice theory: individual decision theory (including probability theory), game theory and social choice theory. Students will become familiar with the kinds of problems and solution techniques (the logical/mathematical machinery) that characterise these areas of rational choice. The primary aim of the course, however, is to philosophically examine the theories in question. To this end we examine the basic assumptions underlying the dominant decision, game and social  choice models, and how these assumptions relate  to the role(s) these models are supposed to play in various areas of philosophy (e.g. philosophy of science and ethics) and in the social sciences.



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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays and 2 problem sets in the MT and LT.

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

Allais, M. and O. Hagen (eds.) (1979) Expected Utility and the Allais Paradox, Dordrecht; Boston: Reidel Publishing Company

Anand, P., Pattanaik, P. and C. Puppe (eds.) The Handbook of Rational and Social Choice, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009

Binmore, K. (2009) Rational Decisions, Princeton University Press

Bradley, Richard (2011) “Decision Theory: a semi-formal introduction”, mimeo

Broome, John (1991) Weighing Goods, Cambridge, Mass., Basil Blackwell

Broome, John (1999) Ethics out of Economics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 

Elster, Jon (ed.) (1986) Rational Choice, New York: NYU Press

Gärdenfors, Peter, and Nils-Eric Sahlin, eds. (1988) Decision, Probability, and Utility, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gilboa, Itzhak (2009) Theory of Decision Under Uncertainty, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gillies, Donald (2000) Philosophical Theories of Probability. Routledge.

Hacking, Ian. (2001) An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hansson, Sven Ove (2005) Decision Theory: A brief introduction,

Jeffrey, Richard (1965/1983). The Logic of Decision. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jeffrey, Richard (1992). Probability and the Art of Judgement. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Jeffrey, Richard (2004) Subjective Probability: The Real Thing. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kreps, David M. (1988) Notes on the Theory of Choice. Westview Press

Levi, Isaac (1986) Hard choices: decision making under unresolved conflict, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Luce, R. Duncan and Howard Raiffa (1957) Games and decisions: introduction and critical survey New York, Wiley.

Millgram, E. (ed.) (2001) Varieties of Practical Reasoning, MIT Press

Peterson, Martin (2009) An Introduction to Decision Theory. Cambridge University Press

Resnik, Michael D. (1987) Choices: an introduction to decision theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Savage, L. J. (1954/1972) The Foundations of Statistics, 2nd ed, Dover, New York

Sen, A. K. (1970) Collective choice and social welfare, San Francisco: Holden-Day

Skyrms, Brian (1999) Choice and Chance: An Introduction to Inductive Logic, 4th edition, Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning


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

The exam will consist of three sections. Section A will contain short questions of a technical nature. Sections B and C will contain longer essay questions

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills