The instrumental value of others and institutional change: An Athenian


by Josiah Ober, Stanford University
published on 07 November 2011

A primary motive for certain Athenian rule changes in the direction of increased legal access and impartiality in the fourth century B.C. was Athenian awareness of the increased instrumental value of foreigners. New Athenian rules were aimed at persuading foreigners to do business in Athens. Foreigners gained greater access to some Athenian institutions, and fairness, in the sense of impartiality, was more evident in some forms of legal decision-making. These new rules appear to have worked; Athens became more prosperous by the later fourth century, at least in part because foreigners liked the new rules and so did more business there. Because increased access and impartiality were not prompted by a changed Athenian approach to the ends/means distinction, a Kantian deontologist would deny that the new rules made Athens a better place. A consequentialist might disagree. Written for a Leiden/Penn collection of essays on “Valuing Others,” in progress, edited by R. Rosen and I. Sluiter.

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Written by Josiah Ober, Stanford University, linked by Jan van der Crabben, published 07 November 2011. Source URL:

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1. Josiah Ober, Stanford University, “The instrumental value of others and institutional change: An Athenian case study,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, last modified November 07, 2011, /article/264/.

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Josiah Ober, Stanford University. “The instrumental value of others and institutional change: An Athenian case study,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified November 07, 2011. /article/264/.

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