Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Rationality and Expected Utility
by Gee, Maxwell, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2015, 213; 3733384
Abstract (Summary)

We commonly make a distinction between what we simply tend to do and what we would have done had we undergone an ideal reasoning process — or, in other words, what we would have done if we were perfectly rational. Formal decision theories, like Expected Utility Theory or Risk-Weighted Expected Utility Theory, have been used to model the considerations that govern rational behavior.

But questions arise when we try to articulate what this kind of modeling amounts to. Firstly, it is not clear how the components of the formal model correspond to real-world psychological or physical facts that ground judgments about what we ought to do. Secondly, there is a great deal of debate surrounding what an accurate model of rationality would look like. Theorists disagree about how much flexibility a rational agent has in weighing the risk of a loss against the value of potential gains, for example.

The goal of this project is to provide an interpretation of Expected Utility Theory whereby it explicates or represents the pressure that fundamentally governs how human agents ought to behave. That means both articulating how the components of the formal model correspond to real-world facts, and defending Expected Utility Theory against alternative formal models of rationality.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kolodny, Niko, Buchak, Lara
Commitee: Ahn, David
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Economic theory
Keywords: Decision theory, Philosophy of action, Rationality, Utility
Publication Number: 3733384
ISBN: 978-1-339-21659-1
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