History and Philosophy Of Science | Rational Decision Making
E105 | 25474 | Colin Allen


Rational Decision Making

One of the secrets to a good life is making good decisions. But what
do we understand about the reasoning that underlies good decision
making? There are two general ways to study decision making. One is
the attempt to formulate rules of logic or mathematics that we
SHOULD follow.  The other looks at ways people actually DO make
decisions. Psychologists following the second approach have
described many surprising ways in which people fail to live up to
the standards set by the first approach. Do these discoveries show
that people are fundamentally irrational, or do these apparent
failures tell us something about how we manage to succeed in a
complex world?  And what about science itself, does it embody
rational decision making processes?

This course has two main goals:  (1) Content: To teach you how to
think critically about reasoning by considering the two different
perspectives on reasoning, one normative (the logic, mathematics,
and philosophy of how we should reason) and the other descriptive
(the science of how we actually do reason).  (2) Skills: To help you
develop scientific literacy, reasoning, and study skills that are
foundational for success in a wide range of college courses.
Additionally, some of the things you will learn may help you
convince your friends that you are smarter than they are!

The course is divided into separate modules structured around an
active learning approach, involving both on-line activities and
classroom exercises.  Grades will be based on participation in
classroom and online activities, short quizzes for each module, a
midterm exam, and a final.