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Risk and Rationality$
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Lara Buchak

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672165

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672165.001.0001

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 Risk-Weighted Expected Utility

 Risk-Weighted Expected Utility

(p.48) 2 Risk-Weighted Expected Utility
Risk and Rationality

Lara Buchak

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces the primary positive proposal of the book: rational agents maximize risk-weighted expected utility. The accompanying theory, risk-weighted expected utility (REU) theory, is a “rank-dependent” theory: the weight an outcome gets in decision-making can depend on its relative ordering in a gamble. REU theory separates two different kinds of reasons for risk-averse preferences and allows both to figure into a rational agent’s decisions. The idea of a risk function that measures an individual’s attitude towards risk is introduced. The relationship between risk-averse preferences and the formal elements of REU theory is characterized, drawing on work in economics on related rank-dependent theories. It is shown how REU theory accommodates the preferences discussed in the first chapter. This chapter also explains how REU theory characterizes the three subjective elements of instrumental rationality and their role in decision-making. Finally, support for thinking that REU theory is not itself overly restrictive is provided.

Keywords:   risk-weighted expected utility, risk function, rank-dependence, risk-aversion, risk, instrumental rationality, reasons

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