Decision Theory & Philosophy of Social Science
In our research, we address both philosophical questions arising from the practice of decision theory and the social sciences, as well as general philosophical problems as illustrated by decision theory and the social sciences. Our topics in this area of research include the following sorts of questions:
- Standards for Individual Rational Choice: Must rational preferences be complete and transitive? Ought agents to maximize expected utility? Must preferences even be representable by real-valued utility functions? What forms of uncertainty do rational agents confront in making decisions? Are attitudes other than belief and preference relevant to determining rational choices? To what extent must we account for causal considerations in framing a decision problem?
- Heuristics and Biases: To what sorts of psychological biases is human choice behavior prone? Can these biases be exploited to make good “fast and frugal” decisions in certain contexts? What measures can be taken to overcome biases in choice?
- Group Decision Making: How should groups make collective decisions in the face of competing interests or conflicting beliefs? Can we compare the relative strengths of our preferences? If individuals in a group express probabilistic opinions, should their opinions be averaged to arrive at a group opinion? Should groups deliberate rather than or before appealing to aggregation techniques? Under what conditions does deliberation produce consensus or polarization? Are standards of rational choice uniform for individuals and groups? How does “team” decision making compare to interactive, adversarial decision making?
- Applications of Decision Theory to Philosophy: Can epistemology legitimately be conceived of as cognitive decision making? Is the problem of scientific theory choice structurally identical to the problem of social choice? Can probabilism be established by appeal to dominance principles? Can game theory explain the emergence and maintenance of social norms? Are ethical decisions those we should make behind the veil of ignorance?
- Explanation, Reduction, and Models in the Social Sciences: What makes for a good explanation in economics? Are all social phenomena explicable in terms of individuals and their beliefs and preferences? In what sense is macroeconomics reducible to microeconomics? Should we seek process models of human choice behavior or are idealized as if models enough?
- Specific Issues Regarding Particular Social Sciences: What is the standing of revealed preference theory? Has expected utility theory been “disconfirmed” by empirical evidence? To what extent are social choice theory and deliberative democracy at odds? What are the best political electoral processes?
People working in decision theory and the philosophy of the social sciences: