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Thucydides: father of game theory

Dal Borgo, Maria Manuela Wagner; (2016) Thucydides: father of game theory. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis, I interpret Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War utilizing models of game theory to distil the abstract strategic structures that Thucydides illuminates. It is possible by close analysis of the narrative to extract an implicit descriptive theory embedded in the narrative, never made explicit but a consistent presence wherever characters, groups and nations interact. Game theory in its informal structure (i.e. without deploying the full formal apparatus of mathematics) offers a valuable extension to narratology, a narrative theory already successfully introduced into Classical studies. The thesis studies Thucydides’ conception of the agon (contest/competition) in its basic framework from simple strategic and dynamic games to games with boundedly rational players. I argue that Thucydides describes a tropology of interaction by inferring motivations from observed actions. Chapter 1 and 2 discuss Thucydides’ method of reading the minds of historical agents to explore historical causation in simultaneous move and sequential move environments, respectively. Chapter 3 discusses agents with incomplete information and also agents who take irrational decisions. Thucydides allows room in his narrative for players to miscalculate or make conjectures when faced with an interactive environment. He writes history as a description of similar types of potentially recurrent events and sequences linked by a causal chain, whose outcomes are only probabilistically predictable. Whilst analysing different types of interactions, the study aims to explore different game theoretic models based on Thucydides’ tropology of interaction, in order to identify in the final chapter new research directions for rational actor models as well as stochastic environments for the benefit of political science.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Thucydides: father of game theory
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Greek and Latin
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1507820
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