Epistemology for MBAs

I will probably be teaching some MBA students some epistemology. Just six or so lectures. I would like to get some opinions regarding appropriate topics for such lectures. I am inclined to at least start out with going over some basic differences and relations among knowledge, belief, truth, and evidence. But other than that, what do you think would be best for MBA students?

Bryan Frances


Epistemology for MBAs — 3 Comments

  1. I’ve given a 4-lecture crash course in epistemology to theoretical computer scientists, and I’d be happy to pass along the script. The lectures are in compressed form, more similar in style to a scientific lecture than a philosophy lecture. By this I mean that the primary goal of the lecture is to introduce them to the topography of traditional epistemology, with an emphasis on topics relevant to formal knowledge representation; I report on the primary disputes, and why they emerge, rather than introduce them to analysis or engage them too much in critical assessments.

    They do get a sense of how analysis works in the presentation of disputes, and I address their questions by pointing out what among the generally held assumptions that we’ve “established” up to that point need to be revised, or abandoned altogether, to follow the line they suggest (or defer discussion until that topic comes up). For this type of audience this approach to introducing the topics works pretty well, since it is very similar in structure and style to the lectures they attend for other axiomatic systems. The course is designed to quickly orient them in the field, and help them into the literature.

    With MBA students, I suspect that they would be interested in seeing some of the limitations of decision theory, which they should be exposed to, at least in outline form, in their other courses. I would think that the paradoxes and clashes between descriptive and normative decision theories would be of keen interest.

    Cheers, -Greg

  2. Bryan,

    I’d second the move to expose them to some decision theory. Greg’s got a point about exposing them to its limits, but that’s darned hard to do when many of them will just be getting the hang of it after four weeks. Tough job.

    One topic I’ve found goes down well with people who haven’t a great deal of philosophy background is the empirical study of human irrationality. Robyn Dawes’s book Rational Choice in an Uncertain World contains some very good material in this line, though at points it’s undeniably idiosyncratic (at least in the first edition, which is the only one I have).

    One merit of Dawes’s book is that he introduces some of the basic moves in Bayesian probability in about as simple a form as the subject matter will stand. It’s worth looking at even if you’re just going to mine it for pedagogic nuggets.



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