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2014-2015 II semestre: F. Guala: The Puzzle of Cooperation  

Corsi Dottorato - II semestre 2014-2015


The Puzzle of Cooperation

Prof. Francesco Guala (Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods, Università degli Studi di Milano)



May 15-29, 2015: Thu-Fri 10.00-12.00 AM

This series of five lectures will introduce students to one of the central problems of contemporary social theory: How, and why, do humans cooperate? Since most contemporary debates take place within the theoretical framework of rational choice, I will begin by reviewing some key concepts and results of game theory (in a non-technical manner). Then I will review some empirical evidence about human sociality, collected in experimental and field settings. I will discuss critically Gauthier’s contractarian approach to morality, and his attempt to solve the dilemma of cooperation by means of the notion of “transparent disposition”. I will explain how Gauthier’s approach is related to other accounts based on weak and strong reciprocity. Finally, time permitting, I will look at accounts based on social norms and team reasoning, and discuss their implications for morality and theories of social justice.


Provisional Syllabus and Bibliography


General and background readings

Sober, E. (1983) “Equilibrium Explanation”, Philosophical Studies 43: 201-210.

Axelrod, R. (1984) The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.

Sugden, R. (1986) The Economics of Rights, Cooperation and Welfare. London: MacMillan.

Ostrom, E. (1990) Governing the Commons. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sterelny, K. (1992) “Evolutionary Explanations of Human Behaviour”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70: 156-173.

Boehm, C. (1999) Hierarchy in the Forest. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Bowles, S. and Gintis, H. (2011) A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Binmore, K. (2007) Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Henrich, J. and Henrich, N. (2007) Why Humans Cooperate. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tomasello, M. (2009) Why We Cooperate. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Nowak, M. and Highfield, R. (2012) Supercooperators. New York: Free Press.


Basic concepts: games and equilibria

Ross, D. (2014) “Game Theory”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/game-theory/>

Kuhn, S. (2014) “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/prisoner-dilemma/

Binmore, K. (1994) Game Theory and the Social Contract, Vol. 1: Playing Fair. MIT Press (Chapter 3)


Cooperation and justice

Gauthier, D. (1987) Morals by Agreement. New York: Oxford University Press, Chs. 1 and 6.

Binmore, K. (2005) Natural Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Woodward, J. (2012) “Cooperation and Reciprocity: Empirical Evidence and Normative Implications”, in TheOxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science, edited by H. Kincaid. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 581–606.


How people cooperate

Chaudhuri, A. (2010) “Sustaining Cooperation in Laboratory Public Goods Experiments: a Selective Survey of the Literature”, Experimental Economics 14: 47-83.

Casari, M. (2007) “Emergence of Endogenous Legal Institutions: Property Rights and Community Governance in the Italian Alps”. Journal of Economic History 67: 191-226.

Binmore, K. (2006) “Why Do People Cooperate?” Politics, Philosophy and Economics 5: 81–96.



Gintis, H., Bowles, S., Boyd, R. and Fehr, E. (2003) “Explaining Altruistic Behavior in Humans”. Evolution and Human Behavior 24:153–72.

Guala, F. (2012) “Reciprocity: Weak or Strong? What Punishment Experiments Do (and Do Not) Demonstrate”, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35, pp. 1-15, 45-59.

Vromen, J. (2012) “Human Cooperation and Reciprocity”, in S. Okasha and K. Binmore (eds.) Evolution and Rationality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


From an evolutionary point of view

Guala, F. (2012) “The Evolutionary Programme in Social Philosophy”, in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science, edited by Harold Kincaid. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 435-457.

Skyrms, B. (1994)  Evolution of the Social Contract. New York: Cambridge University Press (especially Chapter 3).

Alexander, J. McKenzie (2009) “Evolutionary Game Theory”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2009/entries/game-evolutionary/


Cooperation, team reasoning, and social norms

Lewis, D. (1969) Convention: A Philosophical Study. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press (Chapter 1).

Bicchieri, C. (2006) The Grammar of Society. New York: Cambridge University Press (Chapter 1).

Bacharach, M. (2006) Beyond Individual Choice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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