Foundations of normative decision theory

June 20, 2018 - June 21, 2018
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford

Merton College
United Kingdom


Cambridge University
Université de Fribourg
Australian National University
Universität Bayreuth


Université de Fribourg
University College London

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Expected utility theory is a standard theory about how to make rational decisions in the context of risk. It is the basis of much important work in ethics and is also used in standard models in economics and other social sciences. The most interesting arguments for the foundational principles of expected utility theory, explored by Peter Hammond and Edward McClennen among others, arise in cases of decisions taken across time. The paradigmatic case is that of the money pump argument, which purports to show that agents with cyclic preferences are irrational since, arguably, in some situations they are knowingly going to make a series of trades across time that they are bound to regret in the end.

We invite submissions about dynamic/diachronic arguments for key decision-theoretic principles. However, papers on other foundational topics for decision theory are welcome, too. In addition to talks given by the invited speakers, we are planning to have four sessions for graduate students/early career researchers. Please submit 1000-word abstracts (excluding bibliography, suitable for blind review) and a cover sheet including your name, email address, position and institution to Kacper.Kowalczyk [at] by 1 May. We will get back to you with our decision by 15 May.

We have applied for funding and hope to be able to cover accommodation for those whose paper has been accepted.

Invited speakers:

Johanna Thoma (LSE): Instrumental rationality without separability

Arif Ahmed (Cambridge): Future discounting

Katie Steele (ANU): TBA

Ralf Bader (Oxford): Incompleteness and dynamic consistency

Date: 20-21 June

Place: Merton College, University of Oxford

Deadline for submissions: 1 May

Notification of acceptance: 15 May

Organizers: Kacper Kowalczyk, Ralf Bader

Contact email: Kacper.Kowalczyk [at]

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