Rationality and Choice

This information is for the 2018/19 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) Social Choice: May's theorem and arguments for majority rule; Arrow's Theorem; the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem; interpersonal comparability and Utilitarianism; the theory of judgement aggregation.


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 summer exam period.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 40
Merit 33.3
Pass 11.7
Fail 15

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2017/18: 22

Average class size 2017/18: 10

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Lecture capture used 2017/18: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information