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Upon learning that John C. Harsanyi (1920–2000) was awarded the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, in 1994, for his pioneering work in game theory, few economists probably questioned the appropriateness of that choice. The Budapest-born social scientist had already been recognized as a first-rank contributor to non-cooperative game theory for some time (see, e.g., Gul 1997). However, as many readers of this journal will be aware, Harsanyi first contributed to welfare economics, not game theory. More importantly, he was philosophically minded and accordingly has been “acknowledged as the most influential philosopher in economics” (Güth 1994: 252).1 This is of some significance since, before Harsanyi became acquainted with economics around 1950, his main interest was philosophy and, to a lesser extent, sociology and psychology. Rather than an economist with philosophical leanings, Harsanyi was actually a philosopher turned economist.

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Arrow K. J. 1963 [1951]. Social Choice and Individual Values. 2nd edn. London, Yale University Press.
Arrow K. J. 2001. Harsanyi John C. 1920–2000. Economic Journal 111: F747–52.
Fontaine P. 2007. The homeless observer: John Harsanyi on interpersonal utility comparisons and bargaining, 1950–1964. Mimeo.
Gul F. 1997. A Nobel Prize for game theorists: the contributions of Harsanyi, Nash and Selten. Journal of Economic Perspectives 11: 159–74.
Güth W. 1994. On the scientific work of John C. Harsanyi, John F. Nash, and Reinhard Selten. Discussion Paper, no. 35, Humboldt-University of Berlin, 251–81.
Harsányi J. 1947. A filozófiai tévedések logikai alkata. Athenaeum 38: 3339.
Harsanyi J. C. 1953a. Inventions and economic growth. Masters of Arts Thesis, University of Sydney, January.
Harsanyi J. C. 1953b. Cardinal utility in welfare economics and in the theory of risk-taking. Journal of Political Economy 61: 434–5.
Harsanyi J. C. 1953–54. Welfare economics of variable tastes. Review of Economic Studies 21: 204–13.
Harsanyi J. C. 1954. The research policy of the firm. Economic Record 30: 4860.
Harsanyi J. C. 1955. Cardinal welfare, individualistic ethics, and interpersonal comparisons of utility. Journal of Political Economy 63: 309–21.
Harsanyi J. C. 2007 [1947]. The logical structure of philosophical errors. Economics and Philosophy 23: 349–57. Translated by Redei Lorinc.
Nash J. 1950. The bargaining problem. Econometrica 18: 155–62.
Ross M. 2000. Nobel laureate John Harsanyi: from Budapest to Berkeley. 1920–2000. With an Introduction by Kenneth J. Arrow.Berkeley, CA, The Regents of the University of California.
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Economics & Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0266-2671
  • EISSN: 1474-0028
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