NSW Chapter Oration – Professor Josiah Ober on ‘The Origins of Social Order: self-interest, rationality and the common good’ – 18 Nov 2019

Professor Josiah Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, delivered this year’s Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association NSW Chapter Oration.

Professor Ober spoke on the topic “The Origins of Social Order: self-interest, rationality and the common good”.

Those attending included the Patron of the NSW Chapter of HAL,
The Hon Melissa Perry, Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Patron of the Queensland Chapter of HAL, The Hon Anthe Philippides
Justice of Appeal, Supreme Court of Queensland, and other eminent jurists, HAL Chapter representatives and guests.

It was held on Monday 18 November 2019 at Sparke Helmore Lawyers, followed by a reception.

Professor Ober works on the history of institutions and on legal and political theory, with an emphasis on democracy and on the political thought and practice of the ancient Greek world.

Synopsis of The Origins of Social Order: self-interest, rationality and the common good

How can rationally self-interested persons ever manage to cooperate in ways that allow for the emergence of law and order, and thereby the consolidation of a workable society?

Is extensive cooperation in a law-based regime possible without a lawless third-party enforcer?

Thomas Hobbes raised the first question and answered the second in the negative in his great work Leviathan.

They remain at the center of contemporary work by social scientists on rationality of choice and game theory. But 2000 years before Hobbes, and 2400 years before the invention of modern choice theory, Greek philosophers raised the same hard questions and answered them very differently.

Plato’s dialogues (and other Greek texts) offer a profound theoretical exploration of the question of why cooperation is difficult, how legal order arises without a lawless sovereign, the conditions under which people may rationally agree to obey the law, and under which they will actively join in costly punishment of those who violate the rules.

Professor Ober has provided source material relating to this Oration:

  1. Slides of his presentation “The Origins of Social Order: self-interest, rationality and the common good
  2. Handout material accompanying this Oration.

Pictures from the event

Images supplied courtesy of Mark Friezer

TAS: Sir John Demetrius Morris Oration by Professor Josiah Ober – 26 Nov 2019

Professor Josiah Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, delivered this year’s Tasmanian Chapter of Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association’s Sir John Demetrius Morris Oration.

Professor Ober spoke on the topic “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour”.

The Oration was held on Tuesday 26 November 2019, at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts in Hobart, and was followed by a reception.

Guests included the Honourable Alan Blow, Chief Justice of Tasmania and Patron of the Tasmanian Chapter of HAL, members of the Morris family, guests from the Tasmanian legal fraternity, as well as representatives of HAL from the national body and other states.

The Professor works on the history of institutions and on legal and political theory, with an emphasis on democracy and on the political thought and practice of the ancient Greek world.

Synopsis of Professor Ober’s Oration

Thucydides’ great history of the Peloponnesian War is much more than a brilliant year-by-year narrative of a terrible and lengthy conflict.  

It is also a profound meditation on international relations. Thucydides has often been read as a simple sort of “Realist” – a theorist of power relations under conditions of inter-state anarchy. But that characterization misses his deep exploration of the non-zero-sum bargains struck between great and small states, and the tragic consequences of bargaining failures.

Thucydides probes the motivations that lead small states to acquiesce to the hegemonic authority of a great power, and the motives that lead the residents of a small state to resist incorporation into an empire.

Thucydides wrote his work “as a possession for all time” – and indeed, his analysis of rationality and irrationality in relations between states offers timeless insights into how multi-state systems flourish and fail.

Professor Ober has provided source material relating to this Oration:

  1. Slides of his presentation “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour.”
  2. Handout material on “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour”

Photographs of the Event

VIC: Chapter Oration by Professor Josiah Ober – “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour” – 28 Nov 2019

Professor Josiah Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, delivered this year’s Oration for the Victorian Chapter of Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association.

Professor Ober addressed the topic “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour”.

The Professor works on the history of institutions and on legal and political theory, with an emphasis on democracy and on the political thought and practice of the ancient Greek world.

It was held on 28 November 2019 at The RACV Club in Melbourne, and was followed by a reception.

Guests included the Patron of the Victorian Chapter of HAL, the Honourable Emilios Kyrou, Justice of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria, as well as members of the Victorian legal fraternity, and representatives of HAL from other state chapters.

Synopsis of Professor Ober’s Oration

Thucydides’ great history of the Peloponnesian War is much more than a brilliant year-by-year narrative of a terrible and lengthy conflict.  

It is also a profound meditation on international relations. Thucydides has often been read as a simple sort of “Realist” – a theorist of power relations under conditions of inter-state anarchy. But that characterization misses his deep exploration of the non-zero-sum bargains struck between great and small states, and the tragic consequences of bargaining failures.

Thucydides probes the motivations that lead small states to acquiesce to the hegemonic authority of a great power, and the motives that lead the residents of a small state to resist incorporation into an empire.

Thucydides wrote his work “as a possession for all time” – and indeed, his analysis of rationality and irrationality in relations between states offers timeless insights into how multi-state systems flourish and fail.

Professor Ober has provided source material relating to this Oration:

  1. Slides of his presentation “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour.”
  2. Handout material on “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour”

Photographs of the Event

QLD: Clayton Utz Alexander Freeleagus Oration: “Constitutional Bargains – power to the people, who gets what?” – 22 November 2019

Professor Josiah Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, delivered this year’s Queensland Chapter of Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association Clayton Utz Alexander Freeleagus Oration.

It was titled “Constitutional Bargains – power to the people, who gets what?”.

The Oration was held on Friday 22 November 2019 at the offices of Clayton Utz in Brisbane and a reception followed.

Those attending included members of the Freeleagus family, the Patron of the Queensland Chapter of HAL, The Hon Anthe Philippides, Justice of Appeal, Supreme Court of Queensland, and other eminent jurists, HAL Chapter representatives, His Grace, Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis, Archiepiscopol Vicar for Qld and PNG, and guests.

Synopsis of “Constitutional Bargains – power to the people, who gets what?”

World history is filled with cases in which disagreements over distribution of social goods, between the Haves and Have-Nots devolved into zero-sum conflict, typically with tragic results for one or both sides.

In early sixth-century BC Athens, violent conflict between rich and poor was narrowly avoided when the two sides agreed to allow the poet-statesman Solon to arbitrate their dispute – and then to establish a new constitutional order for their state.

While Solon described his law-making as achieving justice, the ancient tradition concerning Solon recognized that his accomplishment was not ideal justice. Rather it was to find the equilibrium solution to a difficult bargaining game – one in which each side ended up with less than it hoped for, but more than could be got by fighting.

Subsequent Athenian constitutional history – the development of the world’s first well-documented democracy – is best understood as a continuation of the practice of bargaining among interested parties.

That process eventuated in a culture that emphasized the common good of “the people” and that gave individual citizens reasons to sacrifice short-term personal advantage in favor of long-term collective flourishing.

Professor Ober has provided source material relating to this Oration:

  1. Slides of his presentation “Constitutional Bargains – power to the people, who gets what?
  2. Handout material accompanying this Oration.

Pictures from the event