Kenneth Binmore

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Kenneth George Binmore
Kenneth Binmore.jpg
Born (1940-09-27) 27 September 1940 (age 77)
Era 20th-century philosophy · 21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests
Game theory · Political philosophy · Ethics · Social contract theory · Mathematical analysis

Kenneth George "Ken" Binmore, CBE (born 27 September 1940) is a British mathematician, economist, and game theorist. He is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at University College London (UCL)[1] and a Visiting Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol.[2]

He is one of the founders of the modern economic theory of bargaining (along with Nash and Rubinstein), and has made important contributions to the foundations of game theory, experimental economics, and evolutionary game theory, as well as to analytical philosophy. Binmore took up economics after a career in mathematics, during which he held the Chair of Mathematics at the London School of Economics. Since his switch to economics he has been at the forefront of developments in game theory. His other research interests include political and moral philosophy, decision theory, and statistics. He is the author of more than 100 scholarly papers and 14 books.


He studied mathematics at Imperial College London where he was awarded 1st class honours BSc with Governor's Prize, and subsequently PhD (in mathematical analysis).


Binmore's major research contributions are to the theory of bargaining and its testing in the laboratory. He is a pioneer of experimental economics. He began his experimental work in the 1980s when most economists thought that game theory would not work in the laboratory. Binmore and his collaborators established that game theory can often predict the behaviour of experienced players very well in laboratory settings, even in the case of human bargaining behaviour, a particularly challenging case for game theory. This has brought him into conflict with some proponents of behavioural economics who emphasise the importance of other-regarding or social preferences, and argue that their findings threaten traditional game theory.

Binmore’s work in political and moral philosophy began in the 1980s when he first applied bargaining theory to John Rawls' original position. His search for the philosophical foundations of the original position took him first to Kant's works, and then to Hume. Hume inspired Binmore to contribute to a naturalistic science of morals that seeks foundations for Rawlsian ideas about fairness norms in biological and social evolution. The result was his two-volume Game Theory and the Social Contract, an ambitious attempt to lay the foundations for a genuine science of morals using the theory of games. In Game Theory and the Social Contract Binmore proposes a naturalistic reinterpretation of John Rawls' original position that reconciles his egalitarian theory of justice with John Harsanyi's utilitarian theory. His recent Natural Justice provides a nontechnical synthesis of this work.


In 1995 Binmore became one of the founding directors of the Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution (ELSE), an interdisciplinary research centre involving economists, psychologists, anthropologists and mathematicians based at University College London. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, ELSE pursues fundamental research on evolutionary and learning approaches to games and society, and it applies its theoretical findings to practical problems in government and business.

While the Director of ELSE, Binmore became widely known as the ‘poker-playing economic theorist’ who netted the British government £22 billion when he led the team that designed the third generation (3G) telecommunications auction in 2000. He went on to design and implement 3G spectrum auctions in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Israel and Hong Kong.

Binmore is Emeritus Professor of Economics at University College London, Visiting Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol and Visiting Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics. He has held corresponding positions at the London School of Economics, Caltech, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the British Academy. He was awarded the CBE in the New Year's Honours List 2001 for contributions to game theory and for his role in designing the UK’s 3G telecommunications auctions. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.[3] In 2007 he was appointed an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bristol and an Honorary Fellow of the Centre for Philosophy at the London School of Economics.


  • (1977). Mathematical Analysis: A Straightforward Approach. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • (1980). Foundations of Analysis: Book 1: Logic, Sets and Numbers. Cambridge University Press.
  • (1980). Foundations of Analysis: Book 2: Topological Ideas. Cambridge University Press.
  • (1986). Economic Organizations As Games (co-edited with Partha Dasgupta). Basil Blackwell.
  • (1987). The Economics of Bargaining (co-edited with Partha Dasgupta). Basil Blackwell. A collection including many of Binmore's classic early papers on Nash bargaining theory.
  • (1990). Essays on the Foundations of Game Theory. Basil Blackwell. A collection which includes Binmore's seminal papers “Modeling Rational Players I and II” from Economics and Philosophy, 1987.
  • (1991). Fun and Games: A Text on Game Theory. D. C. Heath and Company.
  • Game Theory and the Social Contract:
(1994). Volume 1: Playing Fair. Cambridge: MIT Press.
(1998). Volume 2: Just Playing. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • (2002). Calculus: Concepts and Methods (with Joan Davies). Cambridge University Press.
  • (2005). Natural Justice. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • (2007). Playing for Real – A Text on Game Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • (2007). Does Game Theory Work? The Bargaining Challenge. MIT Press. A collection of Binmore's influential papers on bargaining experiments, with a newly written commentary addressing the challenges to game theory posed by the behavioural school of economics.
  • (2008). Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. With mini-biographies of many founders of the subject—including John Nash—this book offers a concise overview of a cutting-edge field that has seen spectacular successes in evolutionary biology and economics, and is beginning to revolutionise other disciplines from psychology to political science.
  • (2009). Rational Decisions. Princeton University Press. Binmore explains the foundations of Bayesian decision theory, shows why Leonard Savage restricted the theory's application to small worlds, and argues that the Bayesian approach to knowledge is inadequate in a large world.

Selected articles[edit]

  • K. Binmore, A. Rubinstein and A. Wolinsky, “The Nash Bargaining Solution in Economic Modeling,” Rand Journal of Economics, 1986.
  • K. Binmore, "Perfect Equilibria in Bargaining Models," in K. Binmore and P. Dasgupta, editors, The Economics of Bargaining, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1987.
  • K. Binmore, “Modeling Rational Players I and II,” Economics and Philosophy, 1987.
  • K. Binmore, A. Shaked and J. Sutton, “An Outside Option Experiment,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1989.
  • K. Binmore, "Debayesing Game Theory," in B. Skyrms, editor, Studies in Logic and the Foundations of Game Theory: Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Logic, Methodology and the Philosophy of Science, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1992.
  • K. Binmore and L. Samuelson, "Evolutionary Stability in Repeated Games Played by Finite Automata," Journal of Economic Theory, 57, 1992.
  • K. Binmore, J. Gale, and L. Samuelson, "Learning to be Imperfect: The Ultimatum Game," Games and Economic Behavior, 8, 1995.
  • K. Binmore and L. Samuelson, "Muddling Through: Noisy Equilibrium Selection," Journal of Economic Theory, 74, 1997.
  • K. Binmore, “Rationality and Backward Induction,” Journal of Economic Methodology, 4, 1997.
  • K. Binmore, J. McCarthy, G. Ponti, A. Shaked and L. Samuelson, "A Backward Induction Experiment," Journal of Economic Theory, 104, 2002.
  • K. Binmore and P. Klemperer, "The Biggest Auction Ever: The Sale of the British 3G Telecom Licences," Economic Journal, 112, 2002.
  • K. Binmore and L. Samuelson, "The Evolution of Focal Points," Games and Economic Behavior, 55, 2006.
  • K.Binmore and A. Shaked, "Experimental Economics: Where Next?" Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2009.

Interviews with Binmore[edit]

'The Origin of Fairness' in Alex Voorhoeve Conversations on Ethics. Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-921537-9 (On Binmore's approach to moral philosophy.)


  1. ^ "CV" (PDF). ELSE. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 

External links[edit]