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Rational choice and belief formation – problems and projects

Lezing georganiseerd door de vakgroepen Ethiek en Theoretische Filosofie

In this talk I first survey how rational choice theory can be applied to processes of belief formation and transformation. A wide-ranging correspondence between independently motivated postulates suggests that the theoretical problem of fixing one's beliefs in a rational way is reducible to the (wider) practical problem of selecting optimal solutions in choice situations. However, this interpretation faces several problems.

One of them concerns the psychological reality of acts of free choice that are assumed to be involved in such processes. Then I discuss a number of apparent anomalies of rational choice theory. Three classes of scenarios are considered that have been the subject of a vivid discussion in the context of probabilistic choice since the 1960s (by Debreu, Tversky and others). They are recast in a non-probabilistic setting, and it is shown how they can at the same time be regarded as logical problems that concern the drawing of defeasible inferences from a given information base. I argue that these apparent anomalies do not present genuine instances of human irrationality, and close by listing a number of open questions.


Hans Rott has been a professor of philosophy at the University of Regensburg since 1999. Before that, he was an assistant professor at the University of Konstanz (1990-1997) and a professor at the University of Amsterdam (1997-1999). He obtained a PhD from the University of Munich (1991) and a Habilitation from the University of Konstanz (1997), the theses being about belief revision and nonmonotonic reasoning, with connections to the philosophy of science and economics. Recent and current research concerns the logical modelling of theoretical and practical forms of rationality, belief formation and conditionals, the notions of disagreement and misunderstanding, and assorted topics in the philosophy of the enlightenment. He has been editor-in-chief of Erkenntnis since 2001 and a vice-president of the German Society for Analytic Philosophy (GAP) since 2003.

Laatst gewijzigd:30 oktober 2012 20:39