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Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies In…

Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies In Rationality And Irrationality… (original 1978; edition 1985)

by Jon Elster (Author)

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631306,358 (4.38)None
This book was first published in 1984, as the revised edition of a 1979 original. The text is composed of studies in a descending sequence from perfect rationality, through imperfect and problematical rationality, to irrationality. Specifically human rationality is characterized by its capacity to relate strategically to the future, in contrast to the myopic 'gradient climbing' of natural selection. There is trenchant analysis of some of the parallels proposed in this connection between the biological and the social sciences. In the chapter on imperfect rationality the crucial notion is that of 'binding oneself', as Ulysses did before setting out to the Sirens, when weakness of will may prevent us from using our capacity for perfect rationality. The second half of the book deals with rational-actor theory, comparing its logical power and success to rival approaches, and with the varieties of irrationality expressed in contradictory beliefs and desires.… (more)
Title:Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies In Rationality And Irrationality (Cambridge Paperback Library)
Authors:Jon Elster (Author)
Info:Cambridge University Press (1985), Edition: Revised, Subsequent, 204 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:rational choice, philosophy of social science

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Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in Rationality and Irrationality (Cambridge Paperback Library) by Jon Elster (1978)



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In the preface the author outlines his view of the philosophy of science which, he says, underlies the essays of this book. It's an interesting set of ideas which covers the social sciences and biology and even touches a little bit upon the physical sciences. But these essays have been written independently of each other and this greatly reduces the overall coherence of the book. The guiding philosophical ideas presented in the preface are completely lost for long stretches when the author delves into various aspects of game theory. It is nevertheless a pleasure to read an author who exhibits such a wide range of learning across different disciplines and distills the key part of complex arguments into a clear conclusion. I particularly liked the argument that there is no place for functional explanation in the social sciences. The author provides a nice formalization of the criteria that a true functional explanation would have to meet.
  thcson | Jun 3, 2020 |
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