Decision Theory


According to a possibly apocryphal story, an eminent philosopher of science once encountered a
noted decision theorist in a hallway at their university. The decision theorist was pacing up and
down, muttering "What shall I do? What shall I do?"

"What's the matter, Howard?" asked the philosopher.

Replied the decision theorist: "It's horrible, Ernest - I've got an offer from Harvard and I don't know
whether to accept it. "

"Why Howard, " reacted the philosopher, "you're one of the world's great experts on decision making.
Why don't you just work out the decision tree, calculate the probabilities and expected outcomes, and
determine which choice maximizes your expected utility?"

With annoyance, the other replied: "Come on, Ernest. This is serious."