Areas of Research and Teaching
The Chair in Philosophy and Decision Theory is devoted to the study of foundational questions in decision and social choice theory, the philosophy of action, the philosophy of the human and social sciences, and neighbouring areas of theoretical and practical philosophy, especially the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and normative moral and political theory. The work of the Chair has an interdisciplinary orientation, emphasizing the exchange of ideas with researchers from neighbouring fields, including in the sciences and social sciences.
The Chair’s areas of research and teaching can be subdivided into three broadly defined subfields, with some overlap between them:
- individual decision theory, including theories of rationality, formal epistemology, and formal ethics;
- collective decision theory, including social choice theory, social epistemology, and related areas of social and political theory;
- the metaphysics of mind and action and related questions concerning the foundations of the human and social sciences.
Since the Chair’s areas of activity are broad, not all of them will be covered by the Chair’s teaching in any given academic year. Rather, the range of courses offered will depend on staffing and may vary from year to year. There will be a particular emphasis on research-led teaching, especially at the master’s and doctoral level, with topics chosen to be close to the Chair’s ongoing research. Examples of topics to be covered by the Chair’s teaching include the following:
- Area (1): Theories of rational choice and reasoning; formal epistemology; and formal ethics, including applications to artificial intelligence.
- Area (2): Voting and social choice theory; judgment aggregation; theories of democracy; formal political theory; and social epistemology.
- Area (3): The philosophy of mind and action; the mind-body problem; free will and responsibility; consciousness and intentionality; collective action and group agency; causation and explanation in the social sciences; and reduction and emergence in the social sciences.
The precise set of courses offered each semester will be announced in due course.
Through its research and teaching, the Chair also seeks to contribute to the philosophical debate on some questions of public interest in relation to decision-making and human agency, such as:
- the nature of rational choice, including in circumstances of positive and/or normative uncertainty,
- free will and responsibility,
- the relationship and alleged tension between “scientific” and “manifest” images of human beings (as physical organisms versus conscious intentional agents), and especially
- the place of humans as conscious and apparently autonomous decision-makers in a world apparently governed by the laws of nature,
- the philosophical foundations of democracy, especially against the background of pluralism and disagreement about both facts and values,
- the scope for ethical artificial intelligence, and
- the role of non-human (e.g., corporate and AI) decision-makers in society.