Syllabus for Rational Decision Making COLL E105 Valid HTML 4.01! — version 2005-08-26
COLL E105 — Rational Decision Making
Meeting times and locations: MW 10:10-11:00 BH 109; F discussion sections tba
Instructor Colin Allen <> / 855-8916
Dept. of History & Philosophy of Science
Goodbody 113 (office hours M 11:15-1:00 and by appointment)
Asst. Instructors / Office Goodbody 009
Koray Karaca <> (office hours M 1:00-2:00 & W 2:30-3:30)
Larry Glass <> (office hours W & Th 11:00-12:00)

Course Objectives

This course has two main goals:

  1. Content: To teach you how to think critically about reasoning and rationality by considering two different perspectives on reasoning, one descriptive (the science of how we actually do reason) and the other normative (the logic, mathematics, and philosophy of how we should reason).
  2. Skills: To help you develop scientific literacy, reasoning, and study skills that are foundational for success in a wide range of college courses.

Additionally, some of the things you will learn may help you convince your friends that you are smarter than they are!


There is no text book for the course. All readings and other exercises are online at IU's OnCourse system,

Note about the readings: Instead of masses of basic, introductory material, the readings have been selected deliberately to challenge you. That is why there are only five — you can expect to need to read more than once to thoroughly understand them, and five of the discussion sections during the semester will be specifically geared to help you understand them. They are examples of the level of writing that you will be expected to handle with ease by the time you start taking upper level courses. You should also note that these readings are not supposed to be the last word on any topic: they present ideas that are controversial, requiring you to exercise critical judgement.

Grading Basis

The course is divided into five modules, each module worth 200 points.

100 points of each module is assigned by your AI, and will be based on your participation in discussion sections (10), completion of online assignments (20), and AI's grading of required logbooks (70).

100 points of each module is based on your performance in the in-class exam for that module. The 5 module exam dates are tentatively scheduled as follows:

  • Module 1: Sep 19
  • Module 2: Oct 10
  • Module 3: Oct 31
  • Module 4: Nov 21
  • Module 5: Dec 16 **Friday 2:45-4:45 p.m**

Exam dates will be confirmed at least 7 days in advance.

Course Content

The five course modules and their classroom dates are as follows:

  1. Module 1: Logic and Mental Models, 08/29 - 09/12
  2. Module 2: Probability and Luck, 09/14 - 10/03
  3. Module 3: Heuristics and Biases, 10/05 - 10/24
  4. Module 4: Game Theory and Collective Rationality, 10/26 - 11/14
  5. Module 5: Scientific Rationality, 11/29 - 12/16

Statement for Students with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact IU Disability Services for Students.

Statement about Academic Misconduct
University rules concerning academic misconduct will be rigorously enforced in this class. See IU Code of Ethics, Part II for details.