Indeterminacy and Society

Indeterminacy and Society

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Indeterminacy and Society
    Book Description:

    In simple action theory, when people choose between courses of action, they know what the outcome will be. When an individual is making a choice "against nature," such as switching on a light, that assumption may hold true. But in strategic interaction outcomes, indeterminacy is pervasive and often intractable. Whether one is choosing for oneself or making a choice about a policy matter, it is usually possible only to make a guess about the outcome, one based on anticipating what other actors will do. In this book Russell Hardin asserts, in his characteristically clear and uncompromising prose, "Indeterminacy in contexts of strategic interaction . . . Is an issue that is constantly swept under the rug because it is often disruptive to pristine social theory. But the theory is fake: the indeterminacy is real."

    In the course of the book, Hardin thus outlines the various ways in which theorists from Hobbes to Rawls have gone wrong in denying or ignoring indeterminacy, and suggests how social theories would be enhanced--and how certain problems could be resolved effectively or successfully--if they assumed from the beginning that indeterminacy was the normal state of affairs, not the exception. Representing a bold challenge to widely held theoretical assumptions and habits of thought,Indeterminacy and Societywill be debated across a range of fields including politics, law, philosophy, economics, and business management.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4896-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Chapter One Indeterminacy
    (pp. 1-15)

    INDETERMINACY in contexts of strategic interaction—which is to say, in virtually all social contexts—is an issue that is constantly swept under the rug because it is often disruptive to pristine social theory. But the theory is fake: the indeterminacy is real. I wish here to address such indeterminacy, its implications for collective choice, and the ways in which it has been hidden from view or ignored in manifold theories, and some ways in which it has been well handled and even made central to theory. The effort to pretend indeterminacy away or to hide it from view pervades...

  6. Chapter Two Beyond Basic Rationality
    (pp. 16-40)

    THE SIMPLEST DEFINITION of rationality, which fits simple problems of choice, is that one should choose more rather than less value. This is basic rationality. It is almost the only principle of rationality that is universally accepted. The only other is that our rankings of possible choices should be transitive. Transitivity is an immediate inference from cardinal values; by inspection, if 4 is greater than 3 and 3 is greater than 2, then 4 is also greater than 2. Even in an ordinal world, there should be a relation of “greater than” or “better than” or “preferred to” that is...

  7. Chapter Three Mutual Advantage
    (pp. 41-54)

    IF WE CAN make nothing more than personal judgments, without comparisons or additions of welfare from one person to another, it would seem that we are reduced to merely individual rationality. In fact, however, we can make aggregate-level claims of mutual advantage, which, as argued in chapter 1, is the aggregate-level equivalent or implication of individual self-interest. In manifold minor contexts, there is little or no difficulty in seeing mutual advantage. For example, every voluntary exchange is an exercise in securing mutual advantage. Families can commonly join in doing things together that could not be done separately and that all...

  8. Chapter Four The Greatest Sum
    (pp. 55-69)

    THE PROBLEM WITH ordinal welfare is that it often leaves us with indeterminacy. Indeed, in a large and diverse society, it would leave public policy almost entirely indeterminate. Only in a pristine case, such as a vaccination program without complications, can we expect to devise a policy that serves to the mutual advantage of virtually all. Vaccination against tetanus, for example, essentially benefits only the person vaccinated, while everyone not vaccinated remains at risk. A program to reduce the cost of such vaccination could therefore be mutually advantageous to all. If we had cardinal, interpersonally comparable values of some kind,...

  9. Chapter Five Marginal Determinacy
    (pp. 70-80)

    THE MAIN LINE of development in welfarist theory has been from Hobbesian individualist ordinalism through Benthamite interpersonally comparable cardinalism and back, through Pareto, to ordinalism. The chief problem of ordinalism has been its indeterminacy, but cardinalism does not work and cannot resolve that problem (chapter 4). In this and other respects, ordinalism is far more realistic. Its indeterminacy merely mirrors reality. Hobbes escaped this indeterminacy in his theory of the foundations of government with a nearly magic move by assuming a principle of insufficient reason to worry about details so that he could focus on the main issue of having...

  10. Chapter Six Rules for Determinacy
    (pp. 81-101)

    THE OLDEST and in many ways the most simplistic device for dealing with indeterminacy in social interaction is to develop and impose rules for behavior in certain contexts only. At issue here are rules such as those in moral theory that proscribe or prescribe certain actions. Such rules are inherently clouded by the difficulty of defining actions in contexts of strategic interaction. The action in many contexts is a joint action, and few if any of the rules that are commended to us govern joint action. A major class of moral theory, Kantianism, issues rules for behavior, even imperative rules...

  11. Chapter Seven Indeterminate Justice
    (pp. 102-120)

    APART FROM LAW and economics, the most influential area in contemporary political philosophy is the debate over distributive justice that has been sparked by John Rawls (1999 [1971]).¹ Any effort to define a principle of distributive justice that would deal with the demanding range of its issues seems likely to be rent with problems of indeterminacy. In the most sophisticated such effort to date, Rawls’s attempt to master the complexities at issue suggests how difficult it is to handle the indeterminacies. This should probably not come as a surprise, because the indeterminacy of mere interests seems likely only to be...

  12. Chapter Eight Mechanical Determinacy
    (pp. 121-138)

    HOW DO WE LIVE with indeterminacy? In part through the devices canvassed in preceding chapters. For a very important range of issues in whole societal contexts, however, we set up institutions to deal with it. Indeed, at the end of a sound social theory stands an institution.¹ In personal contexts we simply live with indeterminacy, andthe passage of time renders personal choices determinate after theory fails. The world is stochastic and so are our lives, and it and our lives are created out of our strategic interactions, with all their incumbent indeterminacies. In both personal and social contexts, we...

  13. Appendix to Chapter Two: Determinacy in Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma
    (pp. 139-140)
  14. Appendix to Chapter Four: Individually Cardinal Utility
    (pp. 141-142)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 143-150)
    (pp. 151-158)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 159-168)