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This symposium contains a selection of the papers that were presented at a conference we organized on Rational Choice and Philosophy that was held at Vanderbilt University on 16 and 17 May 2014. The aim of the conference was to provide an inter-disciplinary forum for philosophical work that uses ideas and tools from rational choice theory, understood broadly to include decision theory, game theory and social choice theory.
This paper explores the contrast between mentalistic and behaviouristic interpretations of decision theory. The former regards credences and utilities as psychologically real, while the latter regards them as mere representations of an agent's preferences. Philosophers typically adopt the former interpretation, economists the latter. It is argued that the mentalistic interpretation is preferable if our aim is to use decision theory for descriptive purposes, but if our aim is normative then the behaviouristic interpretation cannot be dispensed with.
All group traits, “emergent” or otherwise, are ultimately dependent on the traits and behaviours of the individuals that constitute the group. Unless a process of “group reproduction” is envisaged, this means that the evolution of group traits can in principle be studied in an individualistic way, by studying the dynamics of the underlying individual traits on which they depend.
This volume explores from multiple perspectives the subtle and interesting relationship between the theory of rational choice and Darwinian evolution. In rational choice theory, agents are assumed to make choices that maximize their utility; in evolution, natural selection 'chooses' between phenotypes according to the criterion of fitness maximization. So there is a parallel between utility in rational choice theory and fitness in Darwinian theory. This conceptual link between fitness and utility is mirrored by the interesting parallels between formal models of evolution and rational choice. The essays in this volume, by leading philosophers, economists, biologists and psychologists, explore the connection between evolution and rational choice in a number of different contexts, including choice under uncertainty, strategic decision making and pro-social behaviour. They will be of interest to students and researchers in philosophy of science, evolutionary biology, economics and psychology.
This short paper is offered to Hugh as a mark of great respect for his work as an Anglo-Saxon scholar over many years. Hugh's interests have covered many aspects of the literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England and I have no doubt that all those working on the Staffordshire hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver will greatly benefit from his interest in it. As is now well known, amongst the many highly decorated gold and silver objects found in 2009 in the hoard, there is only one that is inscribed. This is a thin strip of gold that contains a biblical text. This strip is interesting for many reasons, not least the fact that it is not clear exactly what its function was, although the attached pin and the holes indicate that it was originally fastened onto some other object. In this paper the Staffordshire strip is compared with other known Anglo-Saxon inscribed strips in an attempt both to pick out similarities and differences and to discuss the functions of such strips.
The word ‘strip’, or ‘decorative strip’, is sometimes used rather loosely by Anglo-Saxonists who have written about such objects, including by the present author. The term is quite vague, and is thus rather useful for describing an object whose function is less than clear. In this, it can be compared with another, equally vague and equally useful, term of description, ‘strap-end’.
John Harsanyi and John Rawls both used the veil of ignorance thought experiment to study the problem of choosing between alternative social arrangements. With his ‘impartial observer theorem’, Harsanyi tried to show that the veil of ignorance argument leads inevitably to utilitarianism, an argument criticized by Sen, Weymark and others. A quite different use of the veil-of-ignorance concept is found in evolutionary biology. In the cell-division process called meiosis, in which sexually reproducing organisms produce gametes, the chromosome number is halved; when meiosis is fair, each gene has only a fifty percent chance of making it into any gamete. This creates a Mendelian veil of ignorance, which has the effect of aligning the interests of all the genes in an organism. This paper shows how Harsanyi's version of the veil-of-ignorance argument can shed light on Mendelian genetics. There turns out to be an intriguing biological analogue of the impartial observer theorem that is immune from the Sen/Weymark objections to Harsanyi's original.
Strap-ends represent the most common class of dress accessory known from late Anglo-Saxon England. At this period, new materials, notably lead and its alloys, were being deployed in the manufacture of personal possessions and jewellery. This newly found strap-end adds to the growing number of tongue-shaped examples fashioned from lead dating from this period. It is, however, distinctive in being inscribed with a personal name. The present article provides an account of the object and its text, and assesses its general significance in the context of a more nuanced interpretation of the social status of lead artefacts in late Anglo-Saxon England.
Some 7000 years ago Egyptians believed in one God, the after-world and that our worldly deeds would be balanced in the day of judgement. This led James Breasted to consider that the emergence of Egyptian culture marked the dawn of conscience (Breasted, 1934; Okasha & Okasha, 2000).
Anthropologists, historians, and students of cross-cultural psychiatry have observed that every society has its own view of health and illness as well as its own classification of diseases (Okasha, 1988).
Ever since the recognition by psychiatrists that clusters of symptoms repeatedly occur together, share a similar prognosis and often respond to the same lines of management, attempts have been made to find labels for these clusters. The labels tend to vary and increase in number every time a point of differentiation is recognized or believed to be recognized within these clusters. As the addition of labels was evidence of creative research in psychiatry, mental disorders and syndromes increased in number, and psychiatry seemed to enjoy the pride of having a name for almost every mental and psychological phenomenon. Yet psychiatrists were soon to recognize the drawbacks of such diversity in names and labels: they frequently seemed not to be speaking the same language and an insight was gained into the need for unifying psychiatric classification terms to enable the exchange of information and advice between psychiatrists worldwide. It was recognized that this is a difficult task, because the absence of physical signs and laboratory abnormalities in many mental disorders makes them much more dependent on the consensus of what is normal in a given society, what is abnormal, what is asocial and what is part of a disease (Sartorius, 1990).
This supplement brings up to date my Hand-List of Anglo-Saxon Non-Runic Inscriptions (Cambridge, 1971), and the two supplements which appeared in Anglo-Saxon England 11 (1983) and 21 (1992). It contains twenty-nine entries and includes all the Anglo-Saxon non-runic inscriptions that have come to my notice since the publication of the second supplement. I have personally examined all the existing inscriptions included in this third supplement, with the exception of 233 Sleaford and 240 ‘in deo’ ring, both of which are in private possession.
Mental disorders have been recognised in Egypt for millennia; 5000 years ago, they were considered to be physical ailments of the heart or uterus, as described in the Ebers and Kahun papyri (Okasha, 2001). These disorders carried no stigma, as there was no demarcation then between psyche and soma. In the 14th century – 600 years before similar institutions were founded in Europe – the first psychiatric unit was established, in Kalaoon Hospital in Cairo.