The Bounds of Reason: Game Theory and the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences

By Herbert Gintis | Go to book overview
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Preface

The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.

Albert Einstein

Mathematics without natural history is sterile, but natural history
without mathematics is muddled.

John Maynard Smith

Game theory is central to understanding the dynamics of life forms in general, and humans in particular. Living creatures not only play games but also dynamically transform the games they play and have thereby evolved their unique identities. For this reason, the material in this book is foundational to all the behavioral sciences, from biology, psychology, and economics to anthropology, sociology, and political science. Disciplines that slight game theory are the worse—indeed, much worse—for it.

We humans have a completely stunning capacity to reason and to apply the fruits of reason to the transformation of our social existence. Social interactions in a vast array of species can be analyzed with game theory, yet only humans are capable of playing a game after being told its rules. This book is based on the appreciation that evolution and reason interact in constituting the social life and strategic interaction of humans.

Game theory, however, is not everything. This book systematically refutes one of the guiding prejudices of contemporary game theory. This is the notion that game theory is, insofar as human beings are rational, sufficient to explain all of human social existence. In fact, game theory is complementary to ideas developed and championed in all the behavioral disciplines. Behavioral scientists who have rejected game theory in reaction to the extravagant claims of some of its adherents may thus want to reconsider their positions, recognizing the fact that, just as game theory without broader social theory is merely technical bravado, so social theory without game theory is a handicapped enterprise.

The reigning culture in game theory asserts the sufficiency of game theory, allowing game theorists to do social theory without regard for either the facts or the theoretical contributions of the other social sciences. Only

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