- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 17, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195178114
- ISBN-13: 978-0195178111
- Product Dimensions: 10 x 1.1 x 7.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Natural Justice 1st Edition
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"Ken Binmore has written a truly exciting book that derives moral principles of fairness, equity, and other behavior from evolutionary theory. In his theory, societies that hit on more efficient and 'fairer' equilibrium are more likely to survive through a combination of genetic and cultural selection. He is in my judgment appropriately highly critical of the rather arbitrary solutions to morality offered by Kant and some other philosophers. The book is innovative but controversial, and is truly a fresh and original approach written mainly in non-technical language. It should be widely read and discussed. I predict it will have a significant influence on discussions of moral principles in the future."--Gary S. Becker, University of Chicago and Nobel laureate in Economics
"Ken Binmore has written a lively, readable account of his social contract theory--shorn of technicalities and accessible to nonspecialists. Readers will be treated to fun and games in social philosophy for the 21st century." --Brian Skyrms, Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Irvine
About the Author
Ken Binmore is a mathematician-turned-economist who has devoted his life to the theory of games and its applications in economics, evolutionary biology, psychology, and moral philosophy. He is best known for his part in designing the telecom auction that raised $35 billion for the British taxpayer, but his major research contributions are to the theory of bargaining and its testing in the laboratory. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of 12 books and some 90 research papers. He is Emeritus Professor of Economics at University College London.
Top customer reviews
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Instead, says Binmore, we need to study the actual rules that people use and see where they come from: How did they evolve and why do they survive?
Moral relativism indeed, but of a very persuasive sort. According to Binmore, fairness rules have evolved to help societies select between equilibria in various coordination games that arise in life. Societies that selected the more efficient equilibria have survived, resulting in our current and constantly evolving social contract. Or in the more eloquent words of Binmore: "Fairness is the social tool washed up on the human beach by the tide of evolution for solving [...] coordination problems [...]".
Although this summarizes the basic philosophy underlying the whole book, the full theory exposited in it is great deal more complicated. It offers a Rawlsian argument in which people bargain in the original position about the outcome of a coordination game, a process made possible by the existence of "empathic preferences". In this process, people use certain fairness rules and social indices for interpersonal utility comparison. According to Binmore, the latter indices evolve, to eventually be such that the fairness rules lead to an efficient (Nash) bargaining outcome. The result is a theory of the coevolution of a genetically determined possibility to emphatize with each other and a culturally determined set of social indices.
Even though the book is a non-technical summery of Binmore's "Game theory and the social contract", it is far from an easy read. There is a fair deal of bargaining and game theory to be swallowed and the exposition is not always as clear as one would hope. Also, it will carry many readers into uncharted terrain, since the book brims with concepts from decision theory, game theory, political philosophy, biology, and evolutionary theory.
But in the end, this is what makes the book so immensely rewarding. Here is a first stab at a whole new theory of morality, and it is so full of ideas that it can keep an army of scholars busy for a long time to follow up on all of them. Most of the ideas may be crude, controversial, incomplete and some even wrong, but they are invariably exciting. 10 Years of thinking by one of the finest minds in economics have yielded a treasure pot for a naturalistic approach to morality.
the ideas behind it, and the flaws are in their exposition.
The book describes the application of evolutionary game theory to the
development of human morality. It shows how some moral positions are
stable, and so are likely to have been selected both by Darwin's Law
of Evolution and by cultural selection in successful societies. It
also shows how forces can influence those stable configurations, so,
for example, in a society with an uncorrupt disinterested and powerful
police force, one would expect utilitarianism to prevail, whereas in
an anarchy one would expect egalitarianism to do so.
The book also offers a cogent, finely-argued and completely successful
rebuttal of Kantian deontology, "right for right's sake", and the
categorical imperative. This rebuttal is long overdue.
However, from the literary standpoint, Binmore is no Dawkins. He
writes well enough from sentence to sentence, and his use of anecdote
and example is good. But he does not have a feel for overall
structure, and does not give the impression of having in mind the
possible ways in which the reader might mis-understand what he is
Binmore's ideas are both correct and very significant. It is a shame
that he has not written about them more clearly. But on balance this book is well worth reading.