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A Summary of Epistemology

by: D'Angelo Notetaker

A Summary of Epistemology ECOG 250

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D'Angelo Notetaker

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Dr. Kofi Dompere sets out to explain and scrutinize several epistemological problems of several models of decision choice rationality. These models include classical decision, classical choice, and...
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This 4 page Bundle was uploaded by D'Angelo Notetaker on Saturday July 9, 2016. The Bundle belongs to ECOG 250 at Howard University taught by Dr. Kofi Dompere in Fall 2017. Since its upload, it has received 16 views. For similar materials see Cost-Benefit Analysis in Economcs at Howard University.


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Date Created: 07/09/16
Dr. Kofi Dompere sets out to explain and scrutinize several epistemological problems of several models of decision choice rationality. These models include classical decision, classical c hoice, and bounded rationality and fuzzy rationality. This summary examines each section and provides some of the more central points made throughout the paper and breaks down some of the concepts using examples from social practice. Introduction Both philosophers and scientists alike, referred to by Dompere as “reflective men,” have pondered two questions that are considered fundamental to human behavior. These are: Is there any intelligence to human decisions and choice? If yes, how is that intelligence known and used to act accordingl y? Dompere attempts to make clear certain contradictions between decision and choice, also known as epistemological problems. Epistemology is the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge, 1 especially with reference to its limits and validity . The Epistemological Problem of Rationality Dompere makes the claim that rationality is part of the descriptive language of common sense and science and the reporting language of hu man inquiry. In other words, humans rationalize in order to describe the scientific world and that which can be deemed common sense. Humans also rationalize to provide insight into our natural curiosities and interests. There are many interpretations and usages of rationality, however, one must ask how the decision agent views rationality if the full extent of knowledge of that rationality is to be known. Decision and Choice Decision and choice are the translation of human history. In this section, Dompere covers two important distinctions between the two. The first distinction is that decisions are mental practices and are preceded by deliberation and reflection. I can decide mentally to purchase a car after much deliberation and reflection. What follows is the intent to purchase that car. Dompere points out, however, that inte ntion need not precede decision though it must follow decision. Choice, on the other hand, which is the second distinction, may be indeliberate and expressed publicly. It may also be preceded by intention. Thus, once can conclude that decision may lead to a choice but the inverse is not necessarily true. I may decide to purchase a car and intend to purchase that car, however, I do not necessarily have to choose to purchase that car. Why Discover Human Intelligence in Decision and Choice Dompere makes the answer to this question simple. The discovery of human intelligence in decision and choice is embarked upon in order to establish, or prescribe, certain guidelines for making decisions. This discovery reveals an algorithm by which intelligent d ecisions can be made. Decision theory is the act of deriving certain clues and rules that will tend toward more successful decision making through the observation of consistent regularities. Therefore, we see that human intelligence in decision and choice is not uncovered to simply explain or predict human behavior.                                                                                                                           1 Merriam-­‐Webster  Collegiate  Dictionary:  Tenth  Edition.  Springfield,  MA:  Merriam -­‐Webst    1999.  Print.   1   The Structure of Decision and Classical Model of Decision Dompere explains that the environment in which a decision is made, the feasible region of decision, possible goals, ranking processes for comparabi lity, and personality characteristics provides the background through which decisions are made. The decision space can be written formulaically as Δ = (Λ, Ω, Γ, ι) where, Λ = criterion; Ω = alternatives; Γ = constraint s; and, ι = general elements Using these definitions, set theory can be used to describe the classical model of decision that can subsequently be used to discover the intelligence of decision based on the objectives of the decision agent. Objective rationality is the intelligence found within decision and is described as the decision to act in a way that will allow the decision-maker to achieve desirable goals or objectives while taking into account the technical and information limitations . In social practice, intelligence is the student who decides to obtain a degree in engineering. The intelligence of that decision will depend upon said student taking into account his technical and information limitations such as paucity of mathematical skills or ignorance of the engineering discipline. The question of “How objective is objective rationality” is examined through the consideration of three assumptions. These assumptions are: 1. As decision agents, we have no control over the societal norms or social institutions that have been established. 2. We also have no control over our personality or its characteristics . 3. We have been given the intangible gifts of clarity, precision, and exactness in all activities leading to decisions, such as deliberation and reflection. What we find is that the classical mode l of decision does not explain these assumptions and thu s removing them would lead to meaningless objective rationality. Interpretations and Implications Dompere offers two interpretations of classical rationality which themselves are consistent with two different views of science. The first interpretation is the view of classical rationality as an explanatory and predictive theory of human behavior: to be rational is to be a discoverer of truth. One may explain and predict the decisions of man, for instan ce, using classical rationality. However, an important observation is that these explanations and predictions take place within social organizations. These social organizations contain certain values and objectives that are specific to that social organiza tion. Decisions are thus deemed rational according to the consistency of the decision with the social organization’s values and objectives. th Consider the samurai warrior of the early 19 century and his practice of Seppuku, a ritualistic suicide. Within the samurai social structure, the decision to disembowel one’s internal organs was considered rational and consistent with the org anization’s objective of honor. Rationality, Objectives and Information In the United States, pursuing a college education is c onsidered paramount to one’s success throughout life. It is highly regarded and viewed favorably and thus can be considered a socially admissible objective of the larger American soci ety. Therefore, it can be said that the high schooler’s objective to atte nd college is one that is derived from the larger society’s reality that attending college is a socially   2   admissible objective. This theory of derivation is postulated by Dompere. Alternatively, the high schooler’s decision to not attend college c ould be viewed as an unintelligent decision as it is inconsistent with America’s socially admissible objectives. There exists a dialectical relationship within this categorical conversion which allows the decision agent to be both rational and irrational at the sam e time. Given this relationship, Dompere reasons that classical rationality is bounded by the intelligibility of objectives. It must also be mentioned that another epistemological problem arises as a result of removing the gifts of clarity and exactness from the decision agent. This problem is further addressed in the next section on the general model of decision. A General Model of Decision Fuzzy bounded rationality results from the inclusion of vagueness, inexactness, and undefined problems into the decision model. This fuzziness is not treatable by the models of bounded rationality . One must consider the concept of vagueness, exactness of measurements, and information -processing and computational limitations of human beings . Inasmuch, making an intelligent decision proves to be frustrating to the decision-maker due to the interaction of its personality characteristics and information. We are made aware of this through the model of bounded rationality. Rationality and Ideology and Information Decision through ideology ultimately leads to c ognitive limitation on choice of objectives and information processing. This ideology can consist of prejudice, mythology, beliefs, etc. and are obstacles to human discovery of truth and societal development . One may argue that we, as Americans, are able to grow even further as a society when we let go of our established prejudices towards those of different ethnicities and cultures. One may also argue that these same prejudices and beliefs are what continues to hold us back from advancing as a society. Classical rationality assumes away these cognitive limitations and leads to a boundedness of wise decision. On Models of Choice The choice model can also be described formulaically where the choice space is rep resented as Ψ = (Λ, Ω, Γ, Ι; C) Like the decision model, the choice space considers the constraints, alternatives, and criterion. The general choice space is represented as: Ψ = (Λ, Ω, Γ, Ι, Π, C), where C is the set of choice functions. The choice model requires the choice-maker to realize the “best” objective given all related constraints. These choice models may also be explanatory, predictive, or prescriptive as we also see in the decision model. As such, we also see the same epistemological problems a rise. Rational Choice, Information and Human Expectation What will I choose based on my preferences for the future and what will be the consequences of said choices? These are the epistemological assumptions that characterize the rational choice theory. Th e answer to these questions are merely guesses. These guesses are affected by the decision agent’s vision and perception of life which are themselves affected by the information -processing capacity and other properties of the decision agent. Using again the example of the high school student who decides to attend   3   college, we suspect that his choice to attend college will be affected by his vision and perception of what a college education will provide for him as it relates to achieving his objectives. This vision and perception are shaped, or bounded, by his ideology. Thus, attending college becomes a rational choice. The Practice of Decision and Practice of Choice Dompere points out that the practice of rational decision needs not lead to the practice of ch oice. It may be rational, for instance, to decide to attend college but this does not mean that a rational choice to actually attend college will be realized. I may decide that it is rational to quit smoking, however, I may not necessarily choose to do so. Thus, the agent of rational choice, as Dompere explains, is simply an follower of the agent of rational decision. A Special Class: The Asantrofi -Anoma Problem and Conclusion The Asantrofi-Anoma problem is an interesting occurrence yet it is, as Dompere suggests, “the most unhappy decision-choice problem that one may find himself entangled by.” The problem consists of two alternatives and two sets of characteristics, respectively . Alternative A and alternative B contain two characteristic sets, K a1d K The2. characteristics are reversed under each alternative, meaning that while K i1 pleasurable and attractive under alternative A, it serves the opposite role under alternative B. For example, consider the decision that is to be made regarding whether one should quit his or her job. Decision: Should I Quit My Job? Alternative A: Yes (Quit) with K as “l1ave and be happy” and K as “stay and2be miserable.” Alternative B: No (Stay) with K as “l1ave and be miserable” and K as “stay and2be happy” The simultaneous existence of the good and bad that accompanies each state make s it rather difficult to rationalize either choice. The Asantrofi-Anoma problem, when understood, becomes immediately recognizable as a social experience. Though the decision may seem clear, the existence of the second alternative and its attractive -repulsive duality makes it difficult to choose and ultimately lea ds to abandonment of decision.   4  


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