Year of Publication


Competition Category

Humanities: Critical Research


Arts and Sciences




This paper considers whether Aristotle’s ethics is consistent with one modern scientific view of humans. The modern scientific view discussed is based on Nancy Cartwright’s argument that game theory uncovers something akin to the Aristotelian natures of humans. Following Martha Nussbaum, this paper focuses on the role of human nature in Aristotle’s ethics. Specifically, it focuses on two kinds of ethical conclusions Aristotle grounds in claims about human nature: one about what can be coherently desired for a human being, one about the social arrangements appropriate to human beings. This paper considers Nussbaum’s interpretation that Aristotle’s claims about human nature are dependent upon common beliefs and values. This paper argues that game theory’s application to Aristotle’s ethics is limited because of differences between Aristotle and Cartwright’s natures. Specifically, game theory’s account of humans cannot ground Aristotle’s conclusions about what can be coherently desired for a human being. However, game theory does allow a relatively value-free grounding of Aristotle’s conclusions about social arrangements. Further, this paper argues, on the latter, the game theoretic account is preferable not only because it is relatively value-free, but also because it can account for more of the diversity of human social arrangements than Aristotle’s can. Thus, this paper concludes that the game theoretic account’s advantages perhaps compensate for its inability to ground Aristotle’s first kind of conclusion. Further research can explore similarities between game theory’s and Aristotle’s accounts, perhaps leading to a way that game theory can ground the first kind of conclusion.


Beau Revlett won the second place in the Humanities: Critical Research category.

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