Kenneth Binmore

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Kenneth George Binmore
Kenneth Binmore.jpg
Born (1940-09-27) 27 September 1940 (age 79)
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 , FBA (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 appointed a 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.


(1994). Volume 1: Playing Fair. Cambridge: MIT Press.
(1998). Volume 2: Just Playing. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Selected articles

Interviews with Binmore

'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.)

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