Herbert Alexander Simon: Philosopher of the Organizational Life-World

J.‐C. Spender

in The Oxford Handbook of Management Theorists

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199585762
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management

Herbert Alexander Simon: Philosopher of the Organizational Life-World

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This article explores how one might best understand Herbert Simon’s work. Many know him as a Nobel Prize-winning economist, an administrative theorist, a founder of AI, or as a psychologist—a man of many identities. The discussion suggests that ‘bounded rationality’ was Simon’s metaphor for the dynamic and pragmatic humanism he stood up against, the ‘rational man’, which he saw as a metaphor for today’s infertile anti-humanist ‘rational choice’ theorizing. Simon’s achievements were vast and exemplary, but they are of particular interest to management theorists. Although Simon was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics, his work stood on a devastating critique of neoclassical economics. The main elements of his reputation are as a theorist of organizational decision-making, cognition, and management. Despite the seeming paradox between Simon’s distrust of human computation and his untroubled faith in computers, the article argues that Simon never abandoned his early humanising pluralism and philosophical positions.

Keywords: AI; bounded rationality; economics; management theorist; Nobel Prize; philosophy; Herbert Simon

Article.  30798 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Business History

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