Rationality and Choice

This information is for the 2021/22 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.


Formal Methods of Philosophical Argumentation (PH104) or Intermediate Logic (PH112) 

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 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, Ken Binmore, Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction


Exam (50%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Coursework (20%) in the MT.
Coursework (20%) in the LT.
Class participation (10%) in the MT and LT.

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.

Summative coursework will consist of a combination of essays and exercises.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Capped 2020/21: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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