Reasons and Choice


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About this Project: The choice-theoretic notion of a rational agent or 'homo oeconomicus' does not explicitly engage with the agent's reasons. Rational-choice theory addresses values (utilities) and beliefs (probabilities), but ignores why things are believed or valued: the origin of attitudes is missing. By neglecting reasons, rational-choice theory disconnects itself from our ordinary discourse about decisions, and from philosophical work about rationality and choice. Jointly with Christian List, I develop an alternative, reason-based theory of choice. As we claim, our approach has explanatory, empirical, and predictive advantages: it (i) provides genuine explanations of choice, (ii) accounts for many observable violations of classical rationality, and (iii) enables better choice predictions. Reason-bassed models have descriptive and normative interpretations, as 'reasons' could stand for motivating or normative reasons. Interpreted normatively, reason-based models can formally represent moral theories, with well-defined distinctions between consequentialism and non-consequentialism, between universalism and relativism, between monism and pluralism, between atomism and holism, and between teleology and non-teleology.

Related Work:

Choice-theoretic deontic logic (with C. List)

What matters and how it matters: a choice-theoretic representation of moral theories (with C. List), Philosophical Review 126(4): 421-479, 2017 → Official Version

Reason-based choice and context-dependence: An explanatory framework (with C. List), Economics and Philosophy 32(2): 175-229, 2016 → Official Version

Mentalism versus behaviourism in economics: a philosophy-of-science perspective (with C. List), Economics and Philosophy 32(2): 249-281, 2016 → Official Version

Where do preferences come from? A summary (with C. List), Proceedings of the International Conference on Logic Across the University: Foundations and Applications, Beijing, China, 2013

Where do preferences come from? (with C. List), International Journal of Game Theory 42(3): 613-637, 2013 → Official Version

Reasons for (prior) belief in Bayesian Epistemology (with C. List), Synthese 190: 787-808, 2013 → Official Version

A reason-based theory of rational choice (with C. List), Noûs 47(1): 104-134, 2013 → Official Version

A model of non-informational preference change (with C. List), Journal of Theoretical Politics 23(2): 145-64, 2011 → Official Version

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