Fall 2014 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Turner Fred
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6355 Section 001
T Time 10:00 AM - 12:45 PM
Course Title
Game Theory in the Humanities

Description of Course:

Game theory has proven to be a highly fruitful tool of research in the social and natural sciences; this class will investigate its potential uses in the humanities, especially but not exclusively in literary studies. Many classic works of art and literature already in fact embody profound insights into the nature of games and the principles of interactivity and nonlinear dynamics. We will ask a fundamental question, related to the basic questions of aesthetics: What makes a good game?

This course topic may be among the first in its kind in the humanities, and part of our work as a class will be to establish a basic working bibliography for future research and teaching in what promises to be a new discipline. The course will be highly exploratory. We will look at the ideas of the giants of game theory, John von Neumann and John Nash (of A Beautiful Mind); also applications of games theory to the evolution of moral and political behavior, such as Brian Skyrms' Evolution of the Social Contract. We will discuss some of the more successful board and computer games. We will read and discuss some of the great literary works that involve games theory, such as the book of Job, Sophocles' Oedipus, Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and Hamlet, Jorge Luis Borges' Ficciones, etc. We will relate what we find to, for instance, the economic ideas of the Austrian economists, philosophical issues raised by Michael Polanyi, Kurt Gödel, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the nonlinear dynamical systems described by chaos theory. Students will be invited to provide games-relevant material from the other arts, such as music, painting, architecture, etc.

This course will be a possible option for graduate students interested in the Art and Technology track.

Grades will be based on class discussion participation and a term paper.

Required Texts:

Morton D. Davis: Game Theory: a Nontechnical Introduction
ISBN: 0486296725 Dover, 1997

Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Publisher: Dover Publications; 471st edition (January 12, 1998)
ISBN-10: 0486404455
ISBN-13: 978-0486404455

Brian Skyrms: Evolution and the Social Contract
ISBN: 0521555833 Cambridge U.P. 1996

Michael Polanyi: The Logic of Liberty
Liberty Fund Press, Indianapolis, 1998

The Bible: Authorized King James Version
World Bible Publishers, 1989

James Gleick: Chaos: Making a New Science
ASIN: 0670811785 Viking Pr, 1987

Robert Wright: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Vintage
# ISBN-10: 0679758941
# ISBN-13: 978-0679758945

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, Tark Classic Fiction
# ISBN-10: 1604501480
# ISBN-13: 978-1604501483

Stephen Pinker, The Language Instinct (Harperperennial, 1995)

Jorge Luis Borges: Ficciones (Fictions)
ISBN: 0679422994 Knopf Everyman's Library, 1993

Sophocles: Oedipus the King trans. Bernard Knox
ISBN: 0677888048 Pocket Books Washington Square Press, 1994

William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice
ISBN: 0451526805 Dutton, 1998

ISBN: 0140714545 Penguin, 2001

Friedrich von Hayek: Individualism and Economic Order
ISBN: 0226320936 U. of Chicago Press

This reading list may be subject to some cuts and changes, if new material appears in the several months before the semester begins, that is more relevant to the subject.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

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