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The bare minimum you need to know about how actions and rationality are represented in decision theory and in game theory for the purposes of this course.

This recording is also available on stream (no ads; search enabled). Or you can view just the slides (no audio or video). You should not watch the recording this year, it’s all happening live (advice).

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This section is concerned with understanding the way of representing actions and rationality used in almost any variety of decision theory.

This is not very deep. But you need to understand how the representation of actions is supposed to work in order, later, to understand the theory.

This may well already be familiar ground for you. If so, take a quick look at the slides to check you understand the terminology we will use.

I am mostly following Jeffrey (1983) as this is still the introduction that best combines a deep understanding of the topic with philosophical motivations.

Alternative Text

If you prefer to read a philosopher presenting the core ideas, Bermúdez (2009, p. chapter 1) is one option. (Bermúdez is summarizing Jeffrey (1983), so read Jeffrey (1983) if you can.)


The choice of terms used in this lecture mostly follows Jeffrey (1983), with a few exceptions where his choices are less familiar.

Make sure you understand the terminology and can relate it to the example choice scenario used as an illustration.

Be sure to use the terminology consistently, and with precision, in your writing.

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ethically neutral condition : ‘A condition is ethically neutral in relation to a particular agent and a particular consequence if the agent is indifferent between having that consequence when the condition holds and when it fails’ (Jeffrey, 1983, p. 46).


Bacharach, M. (2006). Beyond individual choice. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from
Bermúdez, J. L. (2009). Decision theory and rationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from
Jeffrey, R. C. (1983). The logic of decision, second edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Neumann, J. von, Morgenstern, O., Rubinstein, A., & Kuhn, H. W. (1953). Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Princeton, N.J. ; Woodstock: Princeton University Press.