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Rationality, Morality & Economics - PEP00002H

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  • Department: Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Rob Trueman
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Rationality, Morality & Economics focusies on topics of common interest to philosophers and economists. It is informed by the analytical methods of both.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

To explore the main areas of mutual concern to economists and philosophers, especially as relating to rational choice, both individual and collective.

Module learning outcomes

The general learning outcomes can be summarised as an increased understanding of:

· rationality as defined by decision theory and represented by (expected) utility theory

· its connections with morality, such as embodied in the idea of collective rationality

The first part of the module focuses on individual decision-making, and in particular Decision Theory, of which the best known form is Expected Utility (EU) Theory. We explore the EU axioms and look at cases that may be problematic for Decision Theory. The second part of the module focuses on Decision-Theoretic approaches to strategic rationality (in the context of game theory) and collective rationality (i.e. Social Choice), each giving important perspectives on moral behaviour and moral judgments.

Module content

The module comprises six topics divided into two blocks.

Block 1 (Topics 1-3) focuses on the rationality of decision-making by an individual, including under uncertainty.

Block 2 (Topics 4-6) focuses on decisions involving several individuals, including where issues of morality become relevant.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Rationality, Morality & Economics
4 hours 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Procedural information and instructions on formative assessment

students are expected to produce one essay on a topic (1-6) of their choice. The essay title for each topic is the corresponding question from last year's exam.

This essay is for formative assessment purposes only. Information on summative assessment (i.e. the exam) appears separately on the summative assessment page, via module info.

The essay must be:

  • students' own (unaided) work; students must include their name in the document, but not their exam candidate number
  • presented according to normal academic standards; sources used must be listed in a bibliography at the end and, if appropriate, attributed at relevant points in the essay
  • no more than 1200 words (not counting title, maths, diagrams and the bibliography); students must include an accurate word count
  • submitted as a Word document (.doc. or .docx) unlocked for editing
  • uploaded via the upload box which will appear on the corresponding topic page

The essay upload box, for each topic, will be available at the end of the review week for the corresponding block.

It is the student's responsibility to upload the essay, according to the above instructions, before the upload box closes. We will not accept essays emailed to us, at any time.

We will aim to return the essay, with feedback, within three weeks of the close of the submission period for that block.

Summative assessment

Summative assessment is by a 3-hour Online exam during Weeks 13-15 Semester 2. The structure and the rubric will be the same as the 2018 exam. There will be six essay questions, one for each topic, from which you choose three to answer. The past exam papers are available via the Library (enter the module code PEP00002H into YorSearch, to find them). Because of syllabus changes, there isn't much point in looking at papers earlier than 2014.

Marking criteria

A good RME essay (whether in the exam or as a formative essay) will be expected to show familiarity with the relevant lecture material and the essential reading specified on the reading list for that topic, together with intelligent reflection including on the issues discussed in the seminar. It will also show evidence of further exploration of those issues by drawing on some supplementary reading, such as suggested on the reading list or cited in the essential reading.

The essay questions are not intended to trip students up. They are designed to enable students to draw intelligently on the lecture and reading material and the seminar discussion. But they will be specific questions, and students will be expected to have read, understood and addressed the question as set, rather than (say) regurgitated some pre-prepared answer on that topic. There are no conventions of style or format that students need to observe. We simply want students to answer the question that has been set, as clearly, straightforwardly and intelligently as they can, drawing on the work we have done in the module.

Generally, the more and better students accomplish the above, the higher their mark will be, as indicated in the general PEP marking criteria as set out in the PEP u/g handbook.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Rationality, Morality & Economics
4 hours 100

Module feedback

Students are required to attend all seminars of their assigned seminar group. If circumstances arise that prevent students from attending a seminar then they must inform the seminar tutor, with an explanation, as soon as they can. It may be possible for them to attend the seminar of another group, but only with the prior agreement of the seminar tutor. Although not required, attendance at lectures is expected and will be assumed in setting the exam.

In advance of each seminar, students are expected to have prepared as directed. In all cases this will include reading tagged as Essential in the reading list for that topic. Additional required preparation, if any, will vary from one topic to another, and will be specified on the individual topic pages of this site.

At the seminar, everyone will be expected to participate in discussion. Open discussion can continue after the seminar meeting, on the discussion board of this site. The module leaders are happy to discuss any aspects of the module, or the course material, on the discussion board of this VLE site.

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 25 working days after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Peterson, Martin An Introduction to Decision Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.