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The World the Game theorists Made$
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Paul Erickson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226097039

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226097206.001.0001

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The Game Theory Phenomenon

The Game Theory Phenomenon

(p.1) Chapter One The Game Theory Phenomenon
The World the Game theorists Made

Paul Erickson

University of Chicago Press

Writing about game theory’s past presents several historiographical challenges. At least prior to its prominent appearances in economics since the 1980s, game theory does not correlate neatly with any of the typical objects of analysis in the history of the sciences: an individual life; a defined community of individuals; or a particular academic discipline. Indeed, it frequently appears in the context of “interdisciplines” – operations research, “behavioral science,” “management science” or “general systems,” bolstered by powerful patrons of the Cold War era, especially the United States military. Correspondingly, the search for a stable, unitary identity for and interpretation of game theory during this period is difficult. This chapter therefore follows the work of historians of theory in the physical sciences in interpreting game theory as a heterogeneous, friable, and interpretively flexible collection of “theoretical tools” – roughly speaking, notations and general mathematical frameworks as well as specific results and styles of argument – that can be employed in accomplishing work in a variety of contexts. At the same time, the narrative of the book remains bound together by a set of debates that spilled over from context to context – about the nature of rationality and the uses of “theory” in studying human interaction.

Keywords:   interdisciplines, theoretical tools, rationality, history of mathematics, applied mathematics

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