ISBN-10:
0262347806
ISBN-13:
9780262347808
Pub. Date:
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Divine Games: Game Theory and the Undecidability of a Superior Being

Divine Games: Game Theory and the Undecidability of a Superior Being

by Steven J. Brams

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Overview

A game-theoretical analysis of interactions between a human being and an omnipotent and omniscient godlike being highlights the inherent unknowability of the latter's superiority.

In Divine Games, Steven Brams analyzes games that a human being might play with an omnipotent and omniscient godlike being. Drawing on game theory and his own theory of moves, Brams combines the analysis of thorny theological questions, suggested by Pascal's wager (which considers the rewards and penalties associated with belief or nonbelief in God) and Newcomb's problem (in which a godlike being has near omniscience) with the analysis of several stories from the Hebrew Bible. Almost all of these stories involve conflict between God or a surrogate and a human player; their representation as games raises fundamental questions about God's superiority.

In some games God appears vulnerable (after Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit in defiance of His command), in other games his actions seem morally dubious (when He subjects Abraham and Job to extreme tests of their faith), and in still other games He has a propensity to hold grudges (in preventing Moses from entering the Promised Land and in undermining the kingship of Saul). If the behavior of  a superior being is indistinguishable from that of an ordinary human being, his existence would appear undecidable, or inherently unknowable. Consequently, Brams argues that keeping an open mind about the existence of a superior being is an appropriate theological stance.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262347808
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Series: The MIT Press
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at New York University. He is the author of Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible and Game Theory and the Humanities: Bridging Two Worlds, both published by the MIT Press, and other books.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Introduction 1

1.1 Background 1

1.2 Game Theory 3

1.3 The Question of Free Will 6

2 Belief Decisions 9

2.1 Introduction 9

2.2 Pascal's Wager and the Search Decision 11

2.3 The Concern Decision 16

2.4 Conclusions 20

3 Belief Games 21

3.1 Introduction 21

3.2 Belief Game 1 22

3.3 Belief Game 2 33

3.4 Conclusions 35

4 Nonmyopic Equilibria in the Belief Games 39

4.1 Introduction 39

4.2 Nonmyopic Equilibria 41

4.3 Nonmyopic Equilibria in Belief Games 1 and 2 45

4.4 Conclusions 53

5 Paradoxes of Prediction 55

5.1 Introduction 55

5.2 Newcomb's Problem 56

5.3 Which Principle, and Is There a Conflict? 59

5.4 Two Prediction Games 62

5.5 The Paradox of Omniscience 69

5.6 Conclusions 72

6 The Constraint and Temptation Games 75

6.1 Introduction 75

6.2 The Constraint Game: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden 77

6.3 The Temptation Game: Eve and the Serpent 82

6.4 Conclusions 87

7 Three Testing Games 89

7.1 Introduction 89

7.2 Testing Game 1: Abraham's Attempted Sacrifice of Isaac 91

7.3 Testing Game 2: Jephthah's Sacrifice of His Daughter 99

7.4 Testing Game 3: Job's Suffering at the Hands of Satan 103

7.5 Conclusions 106

8 The Incitement, Blame, and Deception Games 109

8.1 Introduction 109

8.2 The Incitement Game: Provoking Cain's Murder of Abel 110

8.3 The Blame Game: Cain's Shifting of Blame for Abel's Murder to God 114

8.4 The Deception Game: Inducing Saul to Be King, and Then Destroying His Kingship 118

8.5 Conclusions 124

9 The Defiance (Manipulated), Pursuit, and Salvation Games 127

9.1 Introduction 127

9.2 Enter Moses 129

9.3 The Defiance (Manipulated) Game: Pharaoh and the Ten Plagues 131

9.4 The Pursuit Game: Pharaoh and the Israelites in the Wilderness 138

9.5 The Salvation Game: Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai 143

9.6 Conclusions 152

10 The Wisdom and Truth Games 155

10.1 Introduction 155

10.2 The Wisdom Game: King Solomon's Edict about the Disputed Baby 156

10.3 The Truth Game: A Better Way to Elicit the Truth 161

10.4 Conclusions 164

11 Summary and Conclusions 167

11.1 Undecidability in Decisions and Games 167

11.2 Undecidability in the Bible 170

11.3 Coda 176

Appendix 179

Glossary 185

References 191

Index 197

Index of Biblical Passages 203

What People are Saying About This

Endorsement

Professor Brams's work in the intersection of game theory and the philosophy of religion has been trailblazing and Divine Games extends that work in original ways, especially as it shows the relevance of game theory to biblical interpretation. Students will find this book an interesting and accessible introduction to game theory.

Jeff Jordan, Professor of Philosophy, University of Delaware; author of Pascal's Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God

From the Publisher

Brams has done it again. This challenging but rewarding book raises fundamental philosophical questions about the nature and existence of God and exposes the reader to the intricacies of decision and game theory. It should be of interest to philosophers, theologians, applied game theorists, many social scientists, and others who think deeply about superior beings of all ilks.

Frank C. Zagare, UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University at Buffalo; author of The Games of July: Explaining the Great War

For millennia, theological thinking nourished and stimulated decision and game theory. From William of Ockham to Leibniz, from Pascal to Bayes, questions about God's existence and properties gave rise to the most fundamental concepts of the field. It takes a thinker as original and profound as Steven Brams to start paying back this intellectual debt.

Itzhak Gilboa, Professor of Economics, Tel Aviv University and HEC, Paris

Professor Brams's work in the intersection of game theory and the philosophy of religion has been trailblazing and Divine Games extends that work in original ways, especially as it shows the relevance of game theory to biblical interpretation.  Students will find this book an interesting and accessible introduction to game theory.

Jeff Jordan, Professor of Philosophy, University of Delaware; author of Pascal's Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God

Customer Reviews