Superior Beings. If They Exist, How Would We Know?: Game-Theoretic Implications of Omnipotence, Omniscience, Immortality, and Incomprehensibility / Edition 2

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This book examines theology and the idea of a superior being in the context of game theory. The central question posed in this book is: If there existed a superior being who possessed the supernatural qualities of omniscience, omnipotence, immortality, and incomprehensibility, how would he/she act differently from us?

The mathematical theory of games is used to define each of these qualities, and different assumptions about the rules of play in several theological games that might be played between ordinary human beings and superior beings like God are posited.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
From the reviews:

"[Brams’s] arguments, some of them quite complicated, are presented clearly and enough background information is given to enable the non-expert in game theory to follow what is going on.” —H.N.V. Temperley, Nature (March, 1984)

"Superior Beings is an extraordinary book... He [Brams] uses strikingly simple models and generally transparent logic to make some surprising inferences about superiority. His inquiry is carried out with great inventiveness and care, and his book is highly recommended to those interested in religion, philosophy, and the contribution of logical analysis." - D. Marc Kilgur, American Scientist (1984)

"Brams has performed a service in deominstrating that rational analysis need not stop where issues involving faith and emotion begin." - Peter Bennett, New Scientist (1 March, 1984)

"Does game-theoretic theory exist? This book is a fresh partial answer, modestly phrased and interestingly written. Readers will enjoy it and learn from it whether or not the believe in either God or von Neumann." - Dr. Paul R. Halmos, Indiana University

"Professor Brams has boldly invaded an unexplored region where modern game theory and decision theory find applications to monotheistic theology. His carefully constructed arguments would have perplexed Maimonides, Aquinas, Luther, or the great Muslim thinkers... But it is hard to see how they can be ignored by contemporary theologians." - Martin Gardener

"[Brams's] work can be highly recommended as collateral reading for introdcutory courses on mathematical modeling in the social, managerial and decision science-now perhaps even in theology." - William F. Lucas, American Mathematical Monthly (January, 1987)

From the reviews of the second edition:

"Brams analyses human interactions with the divine in order to effectively cast light on some of the toughest questions in philosophy and theology. … Superior Beings represents a first step in applying game-theoretic analysis to religious issues and reading it brings up many questions and directions for future work. … Overall, Superior Beings is an excellent book that tackles a challenging series of topics with grace and depth." (Angela Vierling-Claassen, MathDL, February, 2008)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780387480657
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 11/14/2006
  • Edition description: 2nd ed. 2007
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 202
  • Product dimensions: 0.48 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Table of Contents

The Rationality of Belief in a Superior Being.- Omniscience and Partial Omniscience.- The Paradox of Omniscience and the Theory of Moves.- Omnipotence: Moving and Staying Power.- Immortality and Incomprehensibility.- Superior Beings: They May Be Undecidable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2008

    A lot of nonsense about God ...

    Further on the book 'Superior Beings' by S Brams. One of the fundamental differences between people, completely missed in these two books and the mentioned review is the following. Atheists and agnostics believe that they know for absolutely sure what does not exist, namely God, while some of the more sophisticated and profound religious monotheistic people know absolutely sure what they can never really know, namely God. No wonder that the ancient 'Book of Tao' starts with the sentence 'The Tao one can speak about is not the true Tao', or that one of the sayings of Zen Buddhists is 'You show the fool the Moon, and he is looking at your finger'. Also, in traditional Judaism, one is not supposed to say, or for that matter, write down the name of God, since that may mislead one in believing that in certain ways one managed to get hold of God. The underlying essence of the mentioned difference between people is that the latter ones do have a sufficient understanding of the utterly transcendental nature of whatever one may mean by God. And that transcendentality means, among others, that human mind, feelings, actions or experiences can never ever approach it satisfactorily. Consequently, any attempt to prove the existence of God, or for that matter, to disprove it, is completely ridiculous for the second above kind of people. And of course, it is absolutely unnecessary as well. Coming back to our own days, and our high value we confer upon reason, and therefore, upon mathematics, it may be far more appropriate simply to ponder about the following four questions : 1) Do you believe that whatever in Creation which may be relevant to your life is already accessible to your awareness ? 2) And if not - which is most likely the case - then do you believe that it may become accessible during the rest of your life ? 3) And if not - which again is most likely the case - then do you believe that you should nevertheless try some sort of two way interactions with all that which may never ever become accessible to your awareness, yet may nevertheless be relevant to your life ? 4) And if yes - which most likely is the minimally wise approach - then how do you intend to get into a two way interaction with all those realms about which your only awareness can be that they shall never ever be within your awareness, no matter how long you may live ? When facing these four questions, one may choose one of the two options : answer 'no' to question 3, or answer 'yes' to it. And in the latter case, one may as well consider oneself as having done at least as much as Pascal did when he set up his celebrated wager, and decided his choice. What else may then be needed ? Some further ridiculous attempts at consolation through mathematics that God exists, or on the contrary, that it does not exist ? Of course, for a while, such a book may sell ... And that is really quite convenient for some people, whether they may believe in God, or not ...

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