Methods of PPE I


Course Objective

Upon completion of the course the student has acquired
(a) basic knowledge of
• core mathematical and computational techniques of optimization
• first order logic and modal logic
• concepts and approaches in decision theory (utility theory, game
theory, social choice theory), and
(b) basic skills regarding
• logical syntax and semantics
• differentiation of functions of one or more variables
• finding extreme values of functions (one or more variables, with and
without constraints)
• solving systems of linear equations
• modeling of individual preferences, interactive decision making, and
voting procedures

Course Content

This course trains students in the formal thinking and reasoning used in
PPE and applied to economic and political decision-making. The students
become acquainted with basic concepts and techniques concerning formal
reasoning (logic), optimization (mathematics), and decision making
(decision theory). The first part of the course focuses, after a
rehearsal of elementary concepts and tools from algebra and calculus, on
how to solve mathematical optimization problems. Topics covered include
the differentiation of functions (one or more variables), finding
extreme values of functions (one or more variables, with and without
constraints) and solving systems of linear equations. The second part of
the course discusses, parallel to each other, logic and decision theory.
Logic is the formal analysis of thinking and reasoning. The student
becomes acquainted with the basic concepts of first order logic and
modal logic, will learn how to formalize natural language into the
language of first order propositional and predicate logic, and will
judge the validity of logical arguments in propositional logic by means
of truth tables. Decision theory concerns the outlines of models of
individual preferences (utility theory) and collective decision making
(game theory), as well as the aggregation of individual preferences
(social choice theory). Particular attention is paid to how the other
formal techniques covered in the course are used in decision theory.

Teaching Methods

Lectures and seminars (math labs and active learning groups).

Method of Assessment

written mid term exam (Mathematics, 33%)
written final exam (Logic and Decision Theory, 67%)
compulsory exercises in Maths Labs (Pass/Fail)


Sydsæter, K., P. Hammond and A. Strøm (2012), Essential Mathematics for
Economic Analysis, 4th/5th Edition, Pearson Education, Chapters 6, 7,
8, 11,13, 14 (The VU Bookshop and Aureus sell a special edition
including extended access code for MyMathLab)
Peterson, M. (2010), An Introduction to Decision Theory, Cambridge UP,
Chapters 1-5, 11-13 (In case you have the second edition, we cover the
same chapters 1-5, 11-13.)

Recommended reading:
Sydsæter, K., P. Hammond and A. Strøm (2012), Essential Mathematics for
Economic Analysis, 4th Edition, Pearson Education, Chapters 1-4.

Target Audience

First year PPE students

Additional Information

Please note that participation in the seminars is mandatory.

Custom Course Registration

There is a slightly different enrollment procedure for this module. The standard procedure of the Faculty of Humanities has students sign up for (i) the module, (ii) the form of tuition (lecture and/or preferred seminar group), and (iii) the exam. However, for this module the instructor will assign the students to the seminar groups. Therefore, students should sign up for (i) the module, (ii) lecture and (iii) the exam, but not for the seminar groups.

General Information

Course Code W_JSM_102
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 100
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator prof. dr. J.R. van den Brink
Examiner prof. dr. J.R. van den Brink
Teaching Staff prof. dr. J.R. van den Brink
prof. dr. L.B. Decock
dr. I.D. Lindner

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture, Seminar*

*You cannot select a group yourself for this teaching method, you will be placed in a group.

Target audiences

This course is also available as: