Reducible and Nonsensical Uses of Game Theory

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (2):247-266 (2008)
Abstract
The mathematical tools of game theory are frequently used in the social sciences and economic consultancy. But how do they explain social phenomena and support prescriptive judgments? And is the use of game theory really necessary? I analyze the logical form of explanatory and prescriptive game theoretical statements, and argue for two claims: (1) explanatory game theory can and should be reduced to rational choice theory in all cases; and (2) prescriptive game theory gives bad advice in some cases, is reducible to rational choice theory in other cases, while it makes no sense in yet other cases.
Keywords game theory  social science  economics  logical form  prescription  description  explanation  rational choice theory  epistemic characterization  nash equilibrium
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