Game Theory and the Social Contract, Volume 2

From Economic Learning and Social Evolution

Game Theory and the Social Contract, Volume 2

Just Playing

By Ken Binmore





In Volume 1 of Game Theory and the Social Contract, Ken Binmore restated the problems of moral and political philosophy in the language of game theory. In Volume 2, Just Playing, he unveils his own controversial theory, which abandons the metaphysics of Immanuel Kant for the naturalistic approach to morality of David Hume. According to this viewpoint, a fairness norm is a convention that evolved to coordinate behavior on an equilibrium of a society's Game of Life. This approach allows Binmore to mount an evolutionary defense of Rawls's original position that escapes the utilitarian conclusions that follow when orthodox reasoning is applied with the traditional assumptions. Using ideas borrowed from the theory of bargaining and repeated games, Binmore is led instead to a form of egalitarianism that vindicates the intuitions that led Rawls to write his Theory of Justice. Written for an interdisciplinary audience, Just Playing offers a panoramic tour through a range of new and disturbing insights that game theory brings to anthropology, biology, economics, philosophy, and psychology. It is essential reading for anyone who thinks it likely that ethics evolved along with the human species.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262024440 615 pp. | 6.3 in x 9 in


  • Advances in game theory during the past several decades have substantial implications for the fundamental questions of social philosophy, and this connection needs to be made. One can make the case, that, in the context of Western intellectual history, game theory is the modern continuation of Hobbes's great work, as theoretical physics is of Newton's. As a great writer and a distinguished game theorist, Ken Binmore is one of those best qualified for this work.

    Roger Myerson

    Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

  • As an overview of its subject, and in the clarity and comprehensiveness of its discussion, Game Theory and the Social Contract is superior to all of the current literature on the subject. Overall, it is a brilliant exposition of game theory for political philosophy and nicely complements the author's textbook, Fun and Games.

    Vincent P. Crawford

    Department of Economics, University of California

  • This is a book which will be widely read and debated by philosophers, political theorists, and economists. A major piece of work, it is highly original and will stimulate a large critical literature.

    John Weymark

    Department of Economics, John Hopkins University

  • Ken Binmore's Game Theory and the Social Contract is the mostimportant work in social philosophy since John Rawls' Theory ofJustice. It is highly original, insightful, and will be a focal point for social theory.

    Brian Skyrms

    Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Economics, University of California, Irvine