Chapter

The First Challenge: Making Sense of Utility and Preference

José Luis Bermúdez

in Decision Theory and Rationality

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548026
Published online May 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720246 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199548026.003.0003
 The First Challenge: Making Sense of Utility and Preference

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This chapter explores how the different dimensions of rationality impose conflicting requirements and constraints upon the central notions of decision theory — the notions of utility and preference. It begins by considering the operational understanding of utility dominant in economics, according to which utility is a measure of preference (as revealed in choice). It goes on to explore different alternatives to the operational understanding. The first alternative is to develop a richer notion of preference (as in Gauthier's theory of considered preferences). The second alternative is to reject preference as the central notion in decision theory (as in Broome's analysis of utility in terms of goodness). It turns out that no strategy works for all three of the explanatory projects.

Keywords: revealed preference; goodness; Gauthier; considered preferences; Broome

Chapter.  14390 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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