**Philosophy
207: Probability and Decision
(Vailati) Fall 2012
**

Where to reach me: PH 2212; phone x3376;
homepage: http://www.siue.edu/~evailat

Click on “courses” and
then on “Probability and Decision” to find this very syllabus.

**Office
hours**: M 11-12; T 5-6 and
by appointment if needed.

**Course objectives**.
This course introduces student to the basic concepts of probability,
decision theory, game theory, and to some of their philosophical
implications. We shall start by studying
the basics of probability calculus, including Bayes’
Theorem, and investigate some of the human shortcomings in dealing with
probability. We shall then apply what we
have learned to decision theory and address cases taken from real life,
especially from medicine and business.
The last third of the course will be devoted to classical, behavioral,
and evolutionary game theory, which we shall use to address some philosophical
questions such as the nature of human beings and the origins of prosociality and morality.

The amount of mathematics required is
minimal; all that students need to know is the use of fractions and the ability
to solve first degree equations.

**Texts**:

1.
B. Skirms, *Choice and
Chance* 4^{th} edition (Wadsworth).
Abbreviated as “S”. This is a
rental text

2.
Material
to be down loaded from my homepage.

**Course
outline**

**8/20-9/5**: Intro to the course; Download Probability; download
Probability Exercises;
a bit of theory: download Probability
Spaces. Peruse S 109-127. Download more probability exercises. Here are more exercises

*September
3: holiday*

9/5: **First
Quiz**.

**9/10-9/20**: Conditional Probability and some common pitfalls
in using it. For fun, play *Let’s Make a Deal*. Download Tests. Download Causation Vs. Diagnosis. Watch Ariely’s
lecture on irrationality in decision-making.

**9/24-26**: New evidence and the testing of
theories. Download Inductive Arguments
and The
Testing of Theories. Peruse S
151-156. Optional: Continuous Uniform
Distribution.

9/26: **Second
Quiz.**

**10/1-3**: Two new concepts: Normalization and Probability
Density. The use of Probability in Quantum
Mechanics. Download Bets. Peruse S 128-135. Optional: two applications of probability to
genetics: 1 and 2.

10/10: **Midterm**.

**10/8-10/24**: Decision, Risk, and some
conceptual problems. Download Decision Exercises. Some more exercises. The notion of Utility. A puzzle: Newcomb’s
Problem.

10/24: **Third
Quiz.**

**10/29-31:
**Classical Game Theory. Some Game Theory exercises. Mini lecture on sequential games;
the pitfalls of regression in sequential games: Centepide.

10/31: **Fourth
Quiz**.

**11/5-11/14**: Evolutionary Game Theory;
some exercises. An application: Rock-Paper-Scissors. Game theory and the world: Biology
and Rock-Paper-Scissors. How do we
actually play: Behavioral Game
Theory.
Watch Nowak’s lecture
at Harvard.

11/22 *Thanksgiving*

**11/26-28**: Evolutionary game theory in action: a
game theoretical model for the rise of human
cooperation and morality.

**12/3-5**: What is probability?

**12/5: Fifth Quiz**

**Course Requirements**:

·
Regular
attendance

·
Five
quizzes, some take home, some in class, each worth 8% of the course grade. Their dates are given above. No makeup quizzes allowed unless in extreme
circumstances.

·
Four
pop home-works, handed out in class, each worth 5% of the course grade. **Only
those in class can do them**. No
makeup unless in extreme circumstances.

·
One
midterm, worth 20% of the course grade.
For date, see above.

·
A
final exam, worth 20% of the course grade.

There are 200
possible points in this class. The
correspondence with letter grades is as follows: 200-175: A; 174-145: B;
144-120: C; 119-100: D; below 100: F.

**Academic
Policies**

Cheating of any kind will be dealt with
according to the draconian CAS guidelines.

Students are responsible for knowing what
has been said in class, including announcements.

No phoning, texting, surfing the web, or
reading of irrelevant material.

**Some
Advice**

If you want to do well in this class, you
must put some real work into it. This
means studying (not merely glancing at) the material, and doing the
exercises. If you have difficulties,
come and see me as soon as possible.
Students also profit from discussing the material with each other.