About this topic

Making a decision is a way of forming an intention, at least other things equal. In making a decision we seem to be active – decisions seem to be mental actions. One question philosophers have asked about decisions is whether and in what sense decisions really are actions. Other questions include: (i) what makes a decision rational? (ii) do decisions provide reasons to act as you have decided? (iii) are decisions reducible to other kinds of mental states or events (e.g. desire-formation). Since decisions lead to intentions, many discussions of intentions are also relevant to discussions of decisions, and vice-versa.

Key works For discussion of whether decisions are actions, see Mele 2000 and Pink 2007. For discussion of the rationality of decisions and of whether decisions give us reasons to act, see Pink 2007Smith 1991, and Cullity 2008.
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  1. Ruth Chang, Ed., Incommensurability, Incomparability and Practical Reason Reviewed By.Matthew D. Adler - 1999 - Philosophy in Review 19 (3):168-171.
  2. Evidence, Decision and Causality.Arif Ahmed - 2014 - Cambridge University Press.
    Most philosophers agree that causal knowledge is essential to decision-making: agents should choose from the available options those that probably cause the outcomes that they want. This book argues against this theory and in favour of evidential or Bayesian decision theory, which emphasises the symptomatic value of options over their causal role. It examines a variety of settings, including economic theory, quantum mechanics and philosophical thought-experiments, where causal knowledge seems to make a practical difference. The arguments make novel use of (...)
  3. Logic, Motivation and Action: Extending Aristotle's Theory of Choice.Lyle Vincent Anderson - 1980 - Dissertation, Yale University
    There is, however, an important subjective difference; the purpose of the essay is to exploit it. A purely logical analysis cannot adjudicate the following dispute: an agent, wishing to preserve an air of ignorance and innocence, may claim merely to have selected P, while an analyst, wishing to prove knowledge and guilt, may claim that the agent 'really' discounted Q, as a relevant reason for action. Such a dispute about basicness of actions is meaningful, if not resolvable. Thus, if the (...)
  4. Parity, Comparability, and Choice.Chrisoula Andreou - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy 112 (1):5-22.
    It is often supposed that, given two potential objects of choice X and Y, a specific set of circumstances, and a specific choosing agent, one of the following must be true: (1) opting for X is a better choice than opting for Y, (2) opting for Y is a better choice than opting for X, or (3) opting for X and opting for Y are exactly equally good choices. My aim in this paper is to show how some philosophical insights (...)
  5. Taking on Intentions.Chrisoula Andreou - 2009 - Ratio 22 (2):157-169.
    I propose a model of intention formation and argue that it illuminates and does justice to the complex and interesting relationships between intentions on the one hand and practical deliberation, evaluative judgements, desires, beliefs, and conduct on the other. As I explain, my model allows that intentions normally stem from pro-attitudes and normally control conduct, but it is also revealing with respect to cases in which intentions do not stem from pro-attitudes or do not control conduct. Moreover, it makes the (...)
  6. Dynamic Choice.Chrisoula Andreou - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Sometimes a series of choices do not serve one's concerns well even though each choice in the series seems perfectly well suited to serving one's concerns. In such cases, one has a dynamic choice problem. Otherwise put, one has a problem related to the fact that one's choices are spread out over time. This survey reviews some of the challenging choice situations and problematic preference structures that can prompt dynamic choice problems. It also reviews some proposed solutions, and explains how (...)
  7. Understanding Procrastination.Chrisoula Andreou - 2007 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 37 (2):183–193.
    Procrastination is frustrating. Because the procrastinator's frustration is self-imposed, procrastination can also be quite puzzling. I consider attempts at explaining, or explaining away, what appear to be genuine cases of procrastination. According to the position that I propose and defend, genuine procrastination exists and is supported by preference loops, which can be either stable or evanescent.
  8. Environmental Preservation and Second-Order Procrastination.Chrisoula Andreou - 2007 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 35 (3):233–248.
    I argue that procrastination with respect to environmental preservation is in the class of procrastination problems that are particularly difficult to overcome because of the presence of factors that support second-order procrastination. If my reasoning is correct, then second-order procrastination can help explain the distressing fact — assuming it is a fact — that, despite widespread professions of serious concern, the issue of environmental preservation is not getting as much of our attention as it deserves. My reasoning also suggests that (...)
  9. Instrumentally Rational Myopic Planning.Chrisoula Andreou - 2004 - Philosophical Papers 33 (2):133-145.
    Abstract I challenge the view that, in cases where time for deliberation is not an issue, instrumental rationality precludes myopic planning. I show where there is room for instrumentally rational myopic planning, and then argue that such planning is possible not only in theory, it is something human beings can and do engage in. The possibility of such planning has, however, been disregarded, and this disregard has skewed related debates concerning instrumental rationality.
  10. Sense and Sensibility.Chrisoula Andreou & Mariam Thalos - 2007 - American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1):71 - 80.
    We consider two versions of the view that the person of good sense has good sensibility and argue that at least one version of the view is correct. The version we defend is weaker than the version defended by contemporary Aristotelians; it can be consistently accepted even by those who find the contemporary Aristotelian version completely implausible. According to the version we defend, the person of good sense can be relied on to act soundly in part because, with the guidance (...)
  11. The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination.Chrisoula Andreou & Mark D. White (eds.) - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
  12. The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination.Chrisoula Andreou & Mark D. White (eds.) - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    When we fail to achieve our goals, procrastination is often the culprit. But how exactly is procrastination to be understood? This edited volume integrates the problem of procrastination into philosophical inquiry, exploring the relationship of procrastination to agency, rationality, and ethics--topics that philosophy is well-suited to address.
  13. Rational Decision Theory: The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory.Bradshaw Frederick Armendt - 1983 - Dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago
    In recent years rational decision theories such as Richard Jeffrey's, which recommend that an agent act so as to maximize his conditional expected utility, have come under attack on the grounds that they are unable to adequately handle certain kinds of decision problems. Because of their general structure, these problems are sometimes known as "causal counterexamples" to the theories; well-known examples are Newcomb's problem, the Prisoner's Dilemma, and Fisher's smoking gene problem. Several versions of "causal decision theory" have been presented (...)
  14. Practical Reasoning and Ethical Decision.Robert Audi - 2005 - Routledge.
    Presenting the most comprehensive and lucid account of the topic currently available, Robert Audi's "Practical Reasoning and Ethical Decision" is essential reading for anyone interested in the role of reason in ethics or the nature of human action. The first part of the book is a detailed critical overview of the influential theories of practical reasoning found in Aristotle, Hume and Kant, whilst the second part examines practical reasoning in the light of important topics in moral psychology - weakness of (...)
  15. A Theory of Rational Decision in Games.Michael Bacharach - 1987 - Erkenntnis 27 (1):17 - 55.
  16. A Paradox for Supertask Decision Makers.Andrew Bacon - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 153 (2):307.
    I consider two puzzles in which an agent undergoes a sequence of decision problems. In both cases it is possible to respond rationally to any given problem yet it is impossible to respond rationally to every problem in the sequence, even though the choices are independent. In particular, although it might be a requirement of rationality that one must respond in a certain way at each point in the sequence, it seems it cannot be a requirement to respond as such (...)
  17. Decision Theory for Agents with Incomplete Preferences.Adam Bales, Daniel Cohen & Toby Handfield - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (3):453-70.
    Orthodox decision theory gives no advice to agents who hold two goods to be incommensurate in value because such agents will have incomplete preferences. According to standard treatments, rationality requires complete preferences, so such agents are irrational. Experience shows, however, that incomplete preferences are ubiquitous in ordinary life. In this paper, we aim to do two things: (1) show that there is a good case for revising decision theory so as to allow it to apply non-vacuously to agents with incomplete (...)
  18. Moral Reasoning and Personal Decision.James E. Bayley - 1986 - In Martin Tamny & K. D. Irani (eds.), Rationality in Thought and Action. Greenwood Press. pp. 29--19.
  19. Nicholas Rescher, Ed., The Logic of Decision and Action. [REVIEW]Robert W. Beard - 1969 - Journal of Value Inquiry 3 (2):159.
  20. Rational Decision Making: Balancing RUN and JUMP Modes of Analysis.Tilmann Betsch & Carsten Held - 2012 - Mind and Society 11 (1):69-80.
    Rationality in decision making is commonly assessed by comparing choice performance against normative standards. We argue that such a performance-centered approach blurs the distinction between rational choice and adaptive behavior. Instead, rational choice should be assessed with regard to the way individuals make analytic decisions. We suggest that analytic decisions can be made in two different modes in which control processes are directed at different levels. In a RUN mode, thought is directed at controlling the operation of a decision strategy. (...)
  21. The Insignificance of Choice.J. S. Biehl - 2008 - In David Chan (ed.), Moral Psychology Today: Essays on Value, Rational Choice, and the Will. Springer. pp. 110--75.
    For some time, philosophers have sought a more satisfactory understanding of the mysteries of morality through a close analysis of its assumed kinship with practical rationality, via the psychological capacity of choice. It is the view in the present paper that no such understanding is possible by these means. The significance of morality has nothing to do with choice.
  22. A Theory of Practical Reason.Robert Binkley - 1965 - Philosophical Review 74 (4):423-448.
    This paper proposes a concept of "valid reasoning" that will apply univocally to reasoned judgment (inference), Reasoned decision (choice), And reasoned withholding of judgment and decision. "reasoning" is taken to include all these; "validity" of reasoning is defined in terms of the "ideally rational mind", Which is in turn defined by a modal logic of judging and deciding. The definition is defended by relating it to another ideal, That of the socratically omniscient and stoically omniscient sage, Who is defined by (...)
  23. The Equivalence of Bayes and Causal Rationality in Games.Oliver Board - 2006 - Theory and Decision 61 (1):1-19.
    In a seminal paper, Aumann (1987, Econometrica 55, 1–18) showed how the choices of rational players could be analyzed in a unified state space framework. His innovation was to include the choices of the players in the description of the states, thus abolishing Savage’s (1954, The Foundations of Statistics. Wiley, New York) distinction between acts and consequences. But this simplification comes at a price: Aumann’s notion of Bayes rationality does not allow players to evaluate what would happen were they to (...)
  24. Decision Theory, Philosophical Perspectives.Darren Bradley - 2013 - In Hal Pashler (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Mind. Sage Publications.
    Decision theory is concerned with how agents should act when the consequences of their actions are uncertain. The central principle of contemporary decision theory is that the rational choice is the choice that maximizes subjective expected utility. This entry explains what this means, and discusses the philosophical motivations and consequences of the theory. The entry will consider some of the main problems and paradoxes that decision theory faces, and some of responses that can be given. Finally the entry will briefly (...)
  25. Two Faces of Intention.Michael Bratman - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (3):375-405.
  26. Intention and Means-End Reasoning.Michael Bratman - 1981 - Philosophical Review 90 (2):252-265.
  27. Intention, Practical Rationality, and Self‐Governance.Michael E. Bratman - 2009 - Ethics 119 (3):411-443.
  28. Identification, Decision, and Treating as a Reason.Michael E. Bratman - 1996 - Philosophical Topics 24 (2):1-18.
    I [try] to understand identification by appeal to phenomena of deciding to treat, and of treating, a desire of one's as reason-giving in one's practical reasoning, planning, and action. Is identification, so understood, "fundamental," as Frankfurt says, "to any philosophy of mind and of action"? Well, we have seen reason to include in our model of intentional agency such phenomena of deciding to treat, and of treating, certain of one's desires as reason-giving. Identification, at bottom, consists in such phenomena — (...)
  29. Planning and the Stability of Intention.MichaelE Bratman - 1992 - Minds and Machines 2 (1):1-16.
    I sketch my general model of the roles of intentions in the planning of agents like us-agents with substantial resource limitations and with important needs for coordination. I then focus on the stability of prior intentions: their rational resistance to reconsideration. I emphasize the importance of cases in which one's nonreconsideration of a prior intention is nondeliberative and is grounded in relevant habits of reconsideration. Concerning such cases I argue for a limited form of two-tier consequentialism, one that is restricted (...)
  30. A Peircean Theory of Decision.Berit Brogaard - 1999 - Synthese 118 (3):383-401.
    It is sometimes argued that the fact that possession of perfect knowledge about the future is impossible, means that it is impossible for decisions to be rational. This reasoning is fallacious. If rationality is given a new interpretation, then decisions can be considered rational. A theory of decision that has as its basis Peirce’s theory of abduction can provide a new way of understanding decisions as rational processes. The Peircean theory of decision (i) considers decisions as part of a complete (...)
  31. “The Argument has Made the Decision”: Deliberation in Plato’s Crito.Brian D. Brost - 2015 - Southwest Philosophy Review 31 (1):167-175.
  32. Are Intentions Reasons?John Brunero - 2007 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (4):424–444.
    This paper presents an objection to the view that intentions provide reasons and shows how this objection is also inherited by the more commonly accepted Tie-Breaker view, according to which intentions provide reasons only in tie-break situations. The paper also considers and rejects T. M. Scanlon's argument for the Tie-Breaker view and argues that philosophers might be drawn to accept the problematic Tie-Breaker view by confusing it with a very similar, unproblematic view about the relation between intentions and reasons in (...)
  33. Review of Rational Decision and Causality. [REVIEW]James Cargile - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (3):163-168.
  34. Commentary on “‘The Argument has Made the Decision’: Deliberation in Plato’s Crito”.Paul Carron - 2015 - Southwest Philosophy Review 31 (2):53-57.
  35. “Comparativism: The Ground of Rational Choice,” in Errol Lord and Barry McGuire, Eds., Weighing Reasons , 2016.Ruth Chang - 2016 - In B. Maguire & E. Lord (eds.), Weighing Reasons. Oxford University Press. pp. 213-240.
    What, normatively speaking, are the grounds of rational choice? This paper defends ‘comparativism’, the view that a comparative fact grounds rational choice. It examines three of the most serious challenges to comparativism: 1) that sometimes what grounds rational choice is an exclusionary-type relation among alternatives; 2) that an absolute fact such as that it’s your duty or conforms to the Categorial Imperative grounds rational choice; and 3) that rational choice between incomparables is possible, and in particular, all that is needed (...)
  36. Transformative Choices.Ruth Chang - 2015 - Res Philosophica 92 (2):237-282.
    This paper proposes a way to understand transformative choices, choices that change ‘who you are.’ First, it distinguishes two broad models of transformative choice: 1) ‘event-based’ transformative choices in which some event—perhaps an experience—downstream from a choice transforms you, and 2) ‘choice-based’ transformative choices in which the choice itself—and not something downstream from the choice—transforms you. Transformative choices are of interest primarily because they purport to pose a challenge to standard approaches to rational choice. An examination of the event-based transformative (...)
  37. Review: Two Conceptions of Reasons for Action. [REVIEW]Ruth Chang - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (2):447 - 453.
    On a ‘comparative’ conception of practical reasons, reasons are like ‘weights’ that can make an action more or less rational. Bernard Gert adopts instead a ‘toggle’ conception of practical reasons: something counts as a reason just in case it alone can make some or other otherwise irrational action rational. I suggest that Gert’s conception suffers from various defects, and that his motivation for adopting this conception – his central claim that actions can be rational without there being reasons for them (...)
  38. An Application of Circular Definitions: Rational Decision.André Chapuis - 2003 - In Benedikt Löwe, Thoralf Räsch & Wolfgang Malzkorn (eds.), Foundations of the Formal Sciences Ii. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 47--54.
  39. The Implications of Ego Depletion for the Ethics and Politics of Manipulation.Michael Cholbi - 2014 - In C. Coons M. E. Weber (ed.), Manipulation:Theory and Practice. Oxford University Press. pp. 201-220.
    A significant body of research suggests that self-control and willpower are resources that become depleted as they are exercised. Having to exert self-control and willpower draws down the reservoir of these resources and make subsequent such exercises more difficult. This “ego depletion” renders individuals more susceptible to manipulation by exerting non-rational influences on our choice and conduct. In particular, ego depletion results in later choices being less governable by our powers of self-control and willpower than earlier choices. I draw out (...)
  40. Autonomous Reasons for Intending.Randolph Clarke - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (2):191 – 212.
    An autonomous reason for intending to A would be a reason for so intending that is not, and will not be, a reason for A-ing. Some puzzle cases, such as the one that figures in the toxin puzzle, suggest that there can be such reasons for intending, but these cases have special features that cloud the issue. This paper describes cases that more clearly favour the view that we can have practical reasons of this sort. Several objections to this view (...)
  41. Commanding Intentions and Prize-Winning Decisions.Randolph Clarke - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 133 (3):391-409.
    It is widely held that any justifying reason for making a decision must also be a justifying reason for doing what one thereby decides to do. Desires to win decision prizes, such as the one that figures in Kavka’s toxin puzzle, might be thought to be exceptions to this principle, but the principle has been defended in the face of such examples. Similarly, it has been argued that a command to intend cannot give one a justifying reason to intend as (...)
  42. Review: Thomas Pink's The Psychology of Freedom (1996 CUP). [REVIEW]Randolph Clarke - 1998 - Philosophical Review 107 (4):634-637.
  43. Decisions in Action: Reasons, Motivation, and the Connection Between Them.Mary Clayton Coleman - 2001 - Dissertation, Harvard University
    In my dissertation I aim to further our understanding of practical reasons and practical reasoning. In chapter one I evaluate and reject the most commonly accepted accounts of practical reasons, viz., Objectivism and Humeanism. They each offer an account of the conditions under which we have reasons, but they cannot tell us why these conditions have normative significance for us. I also argue that we cannot use a claim about the relationship between reasons and motivation to determine the nature of (...)
  44. Choice and Deliberation.F. Michael Connelly, Barbara Dienes & Choice and Deliberation Project - 1979 - Choice and Deliberation Project, Department of Curriculum, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
  45. Decisions, Reasons, and Rationality.Garrett Cullity - 2008 - Ethics 119 (1):57-95.
    What difference do our decisions make to our reasons for action and the rationality of our actions? There are two questions here, and good grounds for answering them differently. However, it still makes sense to discuss them together. By thinking about the relationships that reasons and rationality bear to decisions, we may be able to cast light on the relationship that reasons and rationality bear to each other.
  46. Verdade e Decisão: sobre a relação entre verdade objetiva e decisão subjetiva (a partir de Kierkegaard).Gabriel Ferreira da Silva - 2012 - Guairacá 28 (1):09-25.
    O problema da relação entre sujeito e objeto em suas diversas instanciações – epistemologia, ética e metafísica – constitui um dos panos de fundo mais amplos da história da filosofia e deve ser visto como um dos problemas centrais que atravessa sua história. De Kant a Husserl e Heidegger, mas também Frege, Wittgenstein, Armstrong e Plantinga, as conexões entre os conceitos de sujeito e objeto nas diversas áreas de problemas apontados encontram muitas soluções e explicitações. Podemos dizer que a filosofia (...)
  47. The Deliberative Relevance of Refraining From Deciding: A Response to McKenna and Pereboom. [REVIEW]John Davenport - 2006 - Acta Analytica 21 (4):62 - 88.
    Readers familiar with Harry Frankfurt’s argument that we do not need leeway-liberty (or the power to bring about alternative possible actions or intentions) to be morally responsible will probably also know that the most famous and popular response on behalf of leeway-libertarianism remains a dilemma posed in similar forms by David Widerker, Robert Kane, and Carl Ginet: either the agent retains significant residual leeway in Frankfurt-style cases, or these cases beg the question by presupposing causal determinism. In the last few (...)
  48. Self and Will: An Existential Theory of Motivation and Frankfurt's Theme of Identification.John Joseph Davenport - 1998 - Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    This dissertation develops a new account of the will as a motivational power of commitment or resolve, which contrasts with volition in the 'thin' sense as a mere decision to form an intention. After tracing the historical background of these concepts in Chapter I, Chapter II argues that will involves the capacity to motivate oneself "projectively" in devotion to causes and purposes for which one did not necessarily have an antecedent "desire." "Projective motivation" differs from three types of "desire"-- inarticulate (...)
  49. Online Deliberation Design: Choices, Criteria, and Evidence.Todd Davies & Reid Chandler - 2012 - In Tina Nabatchi, John Gastil, G. Michael Weiksner & Matt Leihninger (eds.), Democracy in Motion: Evaluating the Practice and Impact of Deliberative Civic Engagement. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 103-131.
    This chapter reviews empirical evidence bearing on the design of online forums for deliberative civic engagement. Dimensions of design are defined for different aspects of the deliberation: its purpose, the target population, the spatiotemporal distance separating participants, the communication medium, and the deliberative process to be followed. After a brief overview of criteria for evaluating different design options, empirical findings are organized around design choices. Research has evolved away from treating technology for online deliberation dichotomously (either present or not) toward (...)
  50. Дизайн онлайн-делиберации: Выбор, критерии и эмпирические данные.Todd Davies, Reid Chandler & Anatoly Kulik - 2013 - Политическая Наука 2013 (1):83-132.
    Перевод статьи: Davies T., Chandler R. Online deliberation design: Choices, criteria, and evidence // Democracy in motion: Evaluating the practice and impact of deliberative civic engagement / Nabatchi T., Weiksner M., Gastil J., Leighninger M. (eds.). -- Oxford: Oxford univ. press, 2013. -- P. 103-131. А. Кулик. -/- Вниманию читателей предлагается обзор эмпирических исследований в области дизайна онлайн-форумов, предназначенных для вовлечения граждан в делиберацию. Размерности дизайна определены для различных характеристик делиберации: назначения, целевой аудитории, разобщенности участников в пространстве и во времени, (...)
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