, Volume 187, Issue 1, pp 11–31 | Cite as

Rationality of belief or: why savage’s axioms are neither necessary nor sufficient for rationality

  • Itzhak GilboaEmail author
  • Andrew Postlewaite
  • David Schmeidler


Economic theory reduces the concept of rationality to internal consistency. As far as beliefs are concerned, rationality is equated with having a prior belief over a “Grand State Space”, describing all possible sources of uncertainties. We argue that this notion is too weak in some senses and too strong in others. It is too weak because it does not distinguish between rational and irrational beliefs. Relatedly, the Bayesian approach, when applied to the Grand State Space, is inherently incapable of describing the formation of prior beliefs. On the other hand, this notion of rationality is too strong because there are many situations in which there is not sufficient information for an individual to generate a Bayesian prior. It follows that the Bayesian approach is neither sufficient not necessary for the rationality of beliefs.


Probability Rationality Beliefs Bayesian paradigm Savage axioms 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Itzhak Gilboa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Andrew Postlewaite
    • 5
  • David Schmeidler
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Tel-Aviv UniversityTel-AvivIsrael
  2. 2.HECParisFrance
  3. 3.The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC)HerzliyaIsrael
  4. 4.Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  5. 5.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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