Rules, Reason and Norms

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course aims at familiarizing students with the main tools developed by philosophers and social scientists to model rational choice, focusing in particular on the theoretical paradoxes and empirical challenges they face in the attempt to explain human cooperation.
Expected learning outcomes
1 Knowledge and understanding
- Knowledge of the main theories of rational choice and their application to the study of human behaviour
- Knowledge of the main theoretical models and empirical studies concerning social norms and the role they play in promoting cooperation

2 Capacity to apply knowledge and understanding
- Capacity to critically assess the power and limits of rational choice models for the explanation of human behaviour
- Capacity to critically assess the conceptual and empirical relationship between individual rationality, rules and social norms
- Capacity to identify the conceptual foundations and philosophical implications of the main theoretical models and related empirical discoveries
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
During the ongoing covid emergency, the course syllabus will be maintained with the following changes made to enhance the effectiveness of the online version of the course, which was originally designed for face-to-face teaching.
The lessons will be held in dual mode. The face-to-face lessons will allow the participation of students connected with MSTeams as well as students in the classroom.
The recordings of the lessons will remain available for the entire academic year

Online environments used:
Teams: code m451fj2
Students wishing to participate in face-to-face lessons must refer to the following University provisions:…

Students wishing to participate in MSTeams lessons must refer to the following technical guides:…
To participate in the exam sessions, students must refer to the following provisions:…
Course syllabus
- Individualism and rational choice theory
- Conventions and coordination
- The problem of cooperation
- The evolution of cooperation
- Social Norms
- Collective intentionality
- Constitutive rules
Prerequisites for admission
None, but basic knowledge of philosophy of science may help
Teaching methods
Lectures, seminar discussions
Teaching Resources
The final list of material can be found on the Ariel website of the course. Among the main texts:
* Weber, M. (1921) "The Interpretive Understanding of Social Action", in Readings in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, edited by M. Brodbeck. Macmillan, pp. 19-33.
* Guala, F. (2016) Understanding Institutions, Princeton University Press, Ch. 2 ("Games")
* Lewis, D. (1969) Convention. Blackwell, selected paragraphs from Chs. 1 and 2.
* Peterson, M. (ed. 2015) The Prisoner's Dilemma. Cambridge University Press (Introduction).
* Handout on Repeated Games
* Camerer, C. F., & Fehr, E. (2004) "Measuring social norms and preferences using experimental games: A guide for social scientists", in J. Henrich et al (eds.) Foundations of Human Sociality, Oxford University Press.
* Frank, R. H. (1988) Passions within Reason, Norton (Ch.3: "A Theory of Moral Sentiments")
* Alexander, J. M. (2019) "Evolutionary Game Theory", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [online], especially sections 1,2,3,5.
* Okasha, S., (2013) "Biological Altruism", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philoso-phy…
* Bicchieri, C. (2006) The Grammar of Society, Cambridge University Press, Ch. 1 ("The rules we live by"). [S&G, ariel]
* Gilbert, M. (1990) "Walking Together: A Paradigmatic Social Phenomenon", Midwest Studies in Philosophy 15: pp. 1-14.
* Searle, J. (2005) "What Is an Institution?", Journal of Institutional Economics 1: 1-22
* Guala, F. and Hindriks, F. (2015) "A Unified Social Ontology", Philosophical Quarterly 165 (2015): 177-201.

For non-attending students:
* Hempel, C. G. (1942) "The Function of General Laws in History", Journal of Philosophy, 39: 35-48.
* Goldman, A. I. (1989) "Interpretation Psychologized", Mind & Language 4: 161-185.
* McGeer, V. (2007) "The Regulative Dimension of Folk Psychology", in Folk Psychology Re-assessed, edited by D. Hutto and M. Radcliffe. Springer, 137-156. [online]
* Anand, P. (1993) "The Philosophy of Intransitive Preference". Economic Journal 103: 337-346.
* Cohen, L. J. (1981) "Can Human Irrationality Be Experimentally Demonstrated?" Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4: 317-331.
* Sen, A. K. (1977) "Rational Fools: A Critique of the Behavioral Foundations of Economic Theory." Philosophy & Public Affairs, 317-344.
* McClennen, E. F. (1997) "Pragmatic Rationality and Rules". Philosophy & Public Affairs 26: 210-258.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Written exam. The exam will assess students' knowledge of the main models of rational choice and their application to explain social phenomena. It will also assess students' capacity to illustrate critically and independently their conceptual and empirical limitations.
Unita' didattica A
SECS-P/01 - ECONOMICS - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica B
SECS-P/01 - ECONOMICS - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica C
SECS-P/01 - ECONOMICS - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Educational website(s)
Tuesday 9.30-12.30, by appointment
Department of Philosophy, via Festa del Perdono 7, Cortile Ghiacciaia, top floor