2.57 Decision Theory

Category: Ethics

Keywords: utilities, mill, utility, decision, choosing, box, option, options, decisions, choice, choose, expected, alternatives, utilitarianism, choices

Number of Articles: 235
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 68th

Weighted Number of Articles: 271.4
Percentage of Total: 0.8%
Rank: 60th

Mean Publication Year: 1983.8
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1979.7
Median Publication Year: 1985
Modal Publication Year: 1983

Topic with Most Overlap: Chance (0.0459)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Game Theory (0.0449)
Topic with Least Overlap: Heidegger and Husserl (0.00023)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Perception (0.00041)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the decision theorytopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1882 when 2.1% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1906 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.57 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.134: Decision theory.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Decision Theorytopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 0.7%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.4%. Ethics - 1.6%. Philosophical Review - 0.5%. Analysis - 1.2%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 1.4%. Journal of Philosophy - 0.9%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 0.4%. Philosophy of Science - 0.9%. Noûs - 1.0%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.7%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.9%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1882 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 2.1% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1906 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.135: Decision theory articles in each journal.

Table 2.140: Characteristic articles of the decision theory topic.
Table 2.141: Highly cited articles in the decision theory topic.


I’m going to say a bit more in chapter 5 about why this is in ethics, because it turned out to be one of the hardest topics to classify. Note for now that the keywords suggest that the focus of this topic is on the utility end of the probability-and-utility model of choice, and that suggests it naturally fits with value theory.

The graph that runs through each journal separately shows that this topic is more prevalent in Ethics than any other journal, which is consistent with classifying the topic in ethics. Journal of Philosophy started taking an interest in the late 1970s, but it’s hard to see a trend after this. Some years there is a lot of decision theory work in Analysis, but some years there is not. And there was a flood of work that was mostly centered around the Pasadena game in Mind in the 2000s.

But mostly there is a little less here than I expected. I think part of what’s happened is that some work I was mentally classifying as decision theory the model instead treated as formal epistemology. And that’s why this is mostly sitting at or even under 1 percent frequency.