Week 2: Economics and Evolution

How to give a strong presentation (second version)

Do not read, unless you are a weak speaker and a strong reader.

Prepare and practise your presentation thoroughly. Do not wing it.

Get the length right: For a standard colloquium or job talk, do not go more than 45-50 minutes.

Have an introduction and a conclusion. Be well organized.

Keep the level of detail appropriate for the audience.

Explain difficult claims and concepts clearly and thoroughly.

Use humour as appropriate.

Use effective visual aids: overheads, Powerpoint, handouts.

Engage your audience with eye contact and enthusiasm.

Listen carefully to understand questions and answer them fully but concisely.

Schedule of Faculty Talks

Jan. 24: Dave DeVidi, Rationality and Logic

Jan. 31: Brian Orend, Rationality and Human Rights

Feb. 7: Paul Thagard, Wisdom

Feb. 14: Joe Novack, Axiomatic systems in antiquity

Schedule of Student Talks (tentative)

Feb. 28: Chapman, Martin, Sand, Sheehan (Mind)

Mar. 7: Finn, Pecoskie, Riarh, Toombs (Science)

Mar. 14: Bullen, Christelis, Dumsday, Heffernan (Knowledge)

Mar. 21: Kulic, Menken, Pollon, Stumpf (Action)

Rationality and Economics

Since Adam Smith, economists have assumed that people are rational agents: "rational economic man".

Rational choice theory has also had a huge influence on political science and other fields.

Rationality as maximizing self interest. Smith's "invisible hand". Contrast moral sentiments.

Rationality as maximizing utility, originally satisfaction, later mathematical reconstruction of preferences.


Rationality and Evolution

Biological evolution: variation + selection -> evolution of species.

Claim: actions of organisms evolved to maximize fitness: selfish gene.

Maximizing fitness requires game theory: dealing with opponents. Altruism.

Sociobiology, social Darwinism, evolutionary psychology.

Problems with analogy between evolution and economics

Questions for Week 3: Law

  1. Are judges and juries well described as rational actors?
  2. How does the economic model of rationality apply to law?
  3. How do judges make decisions? How about juries?
  4. Should laws allow the sacrifice of individual welfare for the greater good?
  5. Is taxation theft?
  6. What does a psychologically realistic account of human decision suggest about how judges and juries should make decisions?

PHIL 680b

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Jan. 9, 2006