The Greeks and the Rational: The Discovery of Practical Reason

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Univ of California Press, Nov 29, 2022 - Business & Economics - 488 pages
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Tracing practical reason from its origins to its modern and contemporary permutations
The Greek discovery of practical reason, as the skilled performance of strategic thinking in public and private affairs, was an intellectual breakthrough that remains both a feature of and a bug in our modern world. Countering arguments that rational choice-making is a contingent product of modernity, The Greeks and the Rational traces the long history of theorizing rationality back to ancient Greece.
In this book, Josiah Ober explores how ancient Greek sophists, historians, and philosophers developed sophisticated and systematic ideas about practical reason. At the same time, they recognized its limits—that not every decision can be reduced to mechanistic calculations of optimal outcomes. Ober finds contemporary echoes of this tradition in the application of game theory to political science, economics, and business management. The Greeks and the Rational offers a striking revisionist history with widespread implications for the study of ancient Greek civilization, the history of thought, and human rationality itself.


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Discovering Practical Reason 1
Rationality and Visibility
Origins of Social Order
How to Choose a Ruler
SelfEnforcing Constitutional Order
Limits of Interstate Rationality
Problems for Democratic Rationality
Economic Rationality
Utility and Eudaimonia
Probability Risk and Likelihood

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About the author (2022)

Josiah Ober is Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University and Senior Fellow (Courtesy) at the Hoover Institution. He is author or editor of eighteen books, including The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece and Demopolis: Democracy before Liberalism in Theory and Practice.

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