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3rd Topoi conference: New Trends in Rational Choice Theory


Idea and Motivation

Rational choice theory (RCT) has been philosophically explored for decades. In particular, its traditional guise of expected utility theory has long been both extremely useful in philosophy and heavily criticized. Still, many particular attempts to expand, question or replace expected utility theory have recently surfaced. To cite but a few prominent ones:

  • New refinements: Foundations have been sought for choice parameters usually taken as given, for instance such as the agents’ preferences, in terms of their motivating reasons.
  • New criticisms: RCT has been accused of insufficiency, for instance in the case of decisions involving agent changes that are too radical.
  • New alternatives: models of rational choice have been proposed in which new features of the agents, such as their attitudes towards risk or their level of confidence, are made explicit.
  • New extensions: Rational choice models are increasingly applied to collective agents and collective rationality.
  • New applications: In addition to its traditional use in ethics, RCT is now being applied in epistemology in order to assess various views concerning degrees of belief and epistemic values.

More generally, discussions surrounding the philosophical import and normative power of RCT have intensified. These issues reveal a renewed attention for rational choice in the general philosophical literature. The conference aims to gather philosophers in order to explore such recent developments and assess the renewed relevance of rational choice theory, either as a philosophical object of study or a philosophical tool.

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