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Reasons and Rational Choice Theory: Closing the Gap

Lezing door Dr. Franz Dietrich (London School of Economics and Maastricht University)

Among the most severe shortcomings of standard rational choice theory is its neglect of the reasons for an agent's actions, desires and beliefs. This shortcoming is responsible for a disconnect between rational choice theory (and its daily application in the social sciences) and philosophical work on reasons, morality and rationality.

Yet an alternative, reason-based theory of rational choice is possible. It explicitly incorporates practical reasons (underlying desires) as well as epistemic reasons (underlying beliefs). It allows one to address questions of actual choice (based on motivating or explanatory reasons) as well as moral choice (based on normative or justificatory reasons).

The talk will introduce the theory, present a representation theorem for reason-based preferences, and discuss avenues for future research.


Franz Dietrich is Lachmann Fellow for research in the overlap of philosophy and economics at the LSE's Philosophy Department. His current research focuses on normative and methodological issues in decision theory, both at an individual level (with a focus on reasons, motivations, unawareness, and preference change) and a collective level (with a focus on judgment aggregation and welfare economics). He also works on logic, the foundations of game theory, probability theory, and mathematical models of terrorism prevention. He has published inter alia in Mind, Philosophy of Science, Economics and Philosophy, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Journal of Economic Theory, and Social Choice and Welfare.

Franz Dietrich has studied mathematics with minor economics, receiving his masters degree from Munich University in 1999 and his doctorate from Oxford University in 2003. Since completing a research fellowship in the Philosophy, Probability and Modelling Group at Konstanz University (2003-5), he has been commuting between the LSE (where he holds positions at the Centre for Philosophy and the Philosophy Department) and Maastricht University (where he is a tenured assistant professor of economics). For details, see his homepage at

Laatst gewijzigd:30 oktober 2012 20:39