5 credits

The main subject of the course is the analysis and appraisal of the theoretical role of individual rationality and the theoretical role of other non-rational or extra-rational factors in the foundations of the social sciences-especially in economics and in the application of the economic approach to the other social sciences. The course will provide the student with an introduction to the theory of rational choice, including the theory of strategic rationality (game theory). The theoretical analysis will be applied to problems of collective action (e.g., the provision of public goods, such as property rights or police or fire protection, and the prevention of public bads, such as air or water pollution). Various proposed solutions to such problems will be considered. The course will consider such questions as the following: What is individual rationality? What is the significance of psychological research on human decision-making for rational actor models employed in the social sciences? Is there a consistent theory of rational agency that yields the main results of neoclassical economics? What means, if any, would be available to purely rational agents to solve their collective action problems? What theoretical role, if any, might the following play as non-rational or extra-rational factors in the solution of collective action problems: attitudes, emotions, norms of behavior, including but not limited to moral norms, and social institutions? Is the concept of rationality itself normative, and, if so, is the concept of rationality culturally relative? There will be several short written assignments, a midterm exam, and a final exam. There are no prerequisites. This is not a technically demanding course (no math beyond high school algebra is employed), but it is a conceptually challenging course. Accessible to non-philosophers with suitable interests and backgrounds. Qualifies as an Advanced Course/Specialized Course in the Political Economy option for Political Science majors. Meets I&S Requirement.