Rule Rationality vs. Act Rationality Robert Aumann



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Rule Rationality vs. Act Rationality

  • Robert Aumann

  • The Center for Rationality

  • The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

  • The Fifth European Conference

  • On Complex Systems

  • Jerusalem, September 2008


a. Bees, flowers, and nectar

  • (Andreas Bertch, circa 1985, unpublished)

  • Q: Actually, why would you expect rationality

  • from a bee?

  • A: EVOLUTION – survival of the fittest

  • (explain)







Rule Utilitarianism vs. Act Utilitarianism

          • John Harsanyi
          • John Stuart Mill
          • Fyodor Dostoyevsky
          • Jeremy Bentham
  • In making ethical judgments, should one consider the RULE?

  • (“Thou shalt not murder”)

  • – or the ACT

  • (“Is this murder justified?”)

  • In either case, judgments are made on a UTILITARIAN basis

  • (i.e., maximum welfare of society)



Rule Rationality vs. Act Rationality

  • In making decisions, should one consider the RULE?

  • (“Stick to what you’ve learned”)

  • – or the ACT

  • (“How do you get nectar?”)

  • In either case, judgments are made on an EGOTISTIC basis

  • (i.e., maximum individual welfare)



  • In the Ultimatum Game:

  • Should one consider the RULE?

  • Don’t let people kick you in the stomach!

  • – or the ACT

  • Should I take DM 20 or nothing?

  • Q: These are not ethical, philosophical issues.

  • Why shouldn’t I just maximize my welfare?

  • What’s the importance of the “RULE”?



  • A: Rule Rationality is a POSITIVE notion,

  • not a NORMATIVE one

  • (unlike Rule Utilitarianism).

  • Rationality is an expression of evolutionary forces, which work by the RULE, not the

  • exception, not the contrived situation.

  • BEES & FLOWERS

  • ULTIMATUM GAME

  • Nature develops mechanisms that are

  • RULE RATIONAL



  • Mechanisms

  • BEES & FLOWERS

  • Learning window

  • ULTIMATUM GAME

  • PRIDE, SELF-RESPECT,

  • INSULT, REVENGE



Other Examples:

  • Hunger & enjoyment of food

  • Bees & orchids

  • Enjoyment of sex

  • Polls – giving the “right” answer (Yonatan)

  • Camerer’s taxi drivers

  • Arrow’s Pacific Island story

  • Room temperature

  • Probability matching

    • – Choosing a route to get to work (Dreze)
  • Repeated prisoner’s dilemma

  • Recency

  • Professor Selten’s Umbrella




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