Economics and Philosophy 9 (1):101-133 (1993)

Ann Cudd
University of Pittsburgh
Although it may seem from its formalism that game theory must have sprung from the mind of John von Neumann as a corollary of his work on computers or theoretical physics, it should come as no real surprise to philosophers that game theory is the articulation of a historically developing philosophical conception of rationality in thought and action. The history of ideas about rationality is deeply contradictory at many turns. While there are theories of rationality that claim it is fundamentally social and aims at understanding and molding all facets of human psychological life, game theory takes rationality to be essentially located in individuals and to concern only the means to achieve predetermined ends. Thus, there are some thinkers who have made important contributions to this history who do not appear in the story of game theory at all, among them, Plato, Kant, and Hegel. There is, however, a clear trail to follow linking theories of instrumental rationality from Aristotle to the nineteenth-century marginalist economists and ultimately to von Neumann and Morgenstern and contemporary game theorists, that historically grounds game theory as a model of rational interaction.
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267100005137
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