Risk and Rationality

Lara Buchak
Berkeley Book Chats
The book cover for Risk and Rationality by Lara Buchak
Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
United States

Professor of Philosophy Lara Buchak specializes in decision, game, and rational choice theory. Her new book Risk and Rationality (Oxford, 2013) analyzes the principles governing rational decision-making in the face of risk and how an individual takes risk into account when making a decision.

Experimental data in economics and psychology has shown that there is a gulf between the orthodox theory of rational decision-making (expected utility theory) and how individuals behave in practice. This discepancy is typically thought to indicate that individuals fall short of ideal rationality. However, Buchak argues that the problem is in fact the orthodox theory: it dictates an overly narrow way in which considerations about risk can play a role in an individual's choices. She argues for an alternative, more permissive, theory of decision-making, one that allows individuals to pay special attention to the worst-case or best-case scenarios, among other “global features” of gambles. Her theory isolates the distinct roles that beliefs, desires, and risk-attitudes play in decision-making. Buchak contends, against the orthodox view, that decision-makers whose preferences can be captured by this theory are rational. Risk and Rationality is in many ways a vindication of the ordinary decision-maker, particularly his or her attitude towards risk, from the point of view of even ideal rationality.

After an introduction by John MacFarlane (Philosophy), Buchak will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion.