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Ulysses Unbound

Ulysses Unbound
Studies in Rationality, Precommitment, and Constraints


  • Date Published: June 2000
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521665612

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About the Authors
  • Common sense suggests that it is always preferable to have more options than fewer, and better to have more knowledge than less. This provocative book argues that, very often, common sense fails. Sometimes it is simply the case that less is more; people may benefit from being constrained in their options or from being ignorant. The three long essays that constitute this book revise and expand the ideas developed in Jon Elster's classic study Ulysses and the Sirens. It is not simply a new edition of the earlier book, though; many of the issues merely touched on before are explored here in much more detail. Elster shows how seemingly disparate examples which limit freedom of action reveal similar patterns, so much so that he proposes a new field of study: constraint theory. The book is written in Elster's characteristically vivid style and will interest professionals and students in philosophy, political science, psychology, and economics.

    • Not second edition - a totally new book revisiting issues discussed in earlier classic study Ulysses and the Sirens
    • Written with Elster's characteristic verve with lots of concrete examples
    • Elster has proven track record of being able to appeal to readers across disciplines: philosophy, political science, economics, psychology
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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2000
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521665612
    • length: 324 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 5 b/w illus. 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Preface and acknowledgments
    Part I. Ulysses Revisited: How and Why People Bind Themselves:
    1. Introduction: Constraint theory
    2. Passion as a reason for self-binding
    3. Time-inconsistency and discounting
    4. Time-inconsistency and strategic behavior
    5. Passion as a device for self-binding
    6. Variations on a Russian nobleman
    7. Addiction and precommitment
    8. Obstacles, objections and alternatives
    Part II. Ulysses Unbound: Constitutions as Constraints:
    9. Introduction
    10. Disanalogies with individual precommitment
    11. The nature and structure of constitutions
    12. Constraints on constitution-making
    13. Two levels of constitutional precommitment
    14. Self-binding in Athenian politics
    15. Interest and passion in Philadelphia and Paris
    16. Time-inconsistency, discounting and delays
    17. Omnipotence, strategic behavior and separation of powers
    18. Efficiency
    19. Obstacles and objections
    20. Ulysses unbound
    Part III. Less is More: Creativity and Constraints in the Arts:
    21. Introduction
    22. Daydreaming: creativity without constraints
    23. Constraints and conventions in the arts
    24. Constraints, value, and creativity
    25. Originality, authenticity, and creativity
    26. The Hays code
    27. Lucien Leuwen as an empty set
    28. Randomization in the arts
    29. Creativity and constraints in jazz
    30. Obstacles and objections

  • Author

    Jon Elster, Columbia University, New York

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