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POLISCI 238R: The Greeks and the Rational: Deliberation, Strategy, and Choice in Ancient Greek Political Thought (CLASSICS 395, POLISCI 438R)

The course explores the role of practical reasoning (instrumental rationality) in the ethical-political works of e.g. Plato and Aristotle, in the historical-political projects of e.g. Herodotus and Thucydides, and in the design of classical Greek institutions. We ask to what degree ancient Greeks shared intuitions concerning the rationality of choice with contemporary decision and game theorists. The Greek tradition recognized the limits of expected utility maximization in predicting or explaining the actual behavior of individuals, groups, and states, and sought to explain divergences from predicted rational behavior. Greek social theorists may, therefore, also have shared some of the intuitions of contemporary behavioral economists. Topics will include individual rationality, rationality of groups and states, the origins of social order, emergence and persistence of monarchical and democratic regimes, conflict and cooperation in interstate relations, competition and cooperation in ex more »
The course explores the role of practical reasoning (instrumental rationality) in the ethical-political works of e.g. Plato and Aristotle, in the historical-political projects of e.g. Herodotus and Thucydides, and in the design of classical Greek institutions. We ask to what degree ancient Greeks shared intuitions concerning the rationality of choice with contemporary decision and game theorists. The Greek tradition recognized the limits of expected utility maximization in predicting or explaining the actual behavior of individuals, groups, and states, and sought to explain divergences from predicted rational behavior. Greek social theorists may, therefore, also have shared some of the intuitions of contemporary behavioral economists. Topics will include individual rationality, rationality of groups and states, the origins of social order, emergence and persistence of monarchical and democratic regimes, conflict and cooperation in interstate relations, competition and cooperation in exchange. Examining the Greek tradition of thought on practical reasoning has some implications for we might think about deliberation and bargaining in contemporary democratic-political, interpersonal-ethical, and interstate contexts. PREREQUISITES: Students in the course are expected to have a background in EITHER classical studies (literature, history, or philosophy), OR Greek political thought (Origins of Political Thought or equivalent) OR in formal/positive political theory. Registration for undergraduates is with permission of instructor (email jober@stanford.edu).
Last offered: Spring 2019
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