Allan Gibbard

University of Michigan


Primary Section: 54, Economic Sciences
Secondary Section: 53, Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type: Emeritus (elected 2009)

Research Interests

I am a philosopher with a specialty in ethical theory. I have worked most intensively in metaethics, the study of the meaning of ethical statements and the nature of ethical judgments. During the early part of my career, I also worked in the theory of social choice, most prominently, on the impossibility of designing a non-trivial system of voting that is proof against strategic manipulation. Equivalently, no social mechanism can be designed to guarantee that no matter what people's preferences are, everyone will have a dominant strategy. The mathematical theory of social choice bears on economics, politics, and ethical theory, and I have been interested in how the findings of the theory might have normative upshots. My central research in recent decades has been on the nature of normative claims. These include claims of right and wrong, and of rationality in action and belief. Among other things, my question has been what is at issue in debates in decision theory, game theory, and statistics over what beliefs and acts are rational. My current work explores the possibility that the concept of meaning and the concept of what a person is thinking are themselves normative concepts, tied conceptually to how it is rational to think.

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