Immortality and Incomprehensibility

  • Steven J. Brams


The moving and staying power that, as I suggested in Chapter 5, may distinguish SB from P can also be used to differentiate more powerful from less powerful actors in the secular world. There is nothing sacrosanct about these attributes, though I think that the indefatigability required of a player with M-power, and the suspension of choice required of a player with S-power, may well characterize aspects of omnipotence that a supernatural figure, who embodies the sacred and mysterious in a religion, may possess.


Outcome Matrix Single Play Credible Threat Repeated Play Ordinal Game 
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  1. 1.
    Material in this and the next section is drawn from Steven J. Brams and Marek P. Hessel, Threat power in sequential games (mimeographed, 1982).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    References to this literature are given in Steven J. Brams and Donald Witt-man, Nonmyopic equilibria in 2 × 2 games, Conflict Management Peace Sci. 6, 1 (1983).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Steven J. Brams, Biblical Games: A Strategic Analysis of Stories in the Old Testament (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1980), pp. 173–176.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    While it is possible to provide formal conditions under which SB has a reason to threaten P, they are not very illuminating. Their significance is mostly algorithmic, and they can easily be deduced from the algorithm for determining threat outcomes given in note 8.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Schelling, Arms and Influence. Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Brams, Biblical Games, pp. 175–176.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    For a description of this paradox and references to it, see note 13, Chap. 2, where, unlike here, SB is the player with the dominant strategy.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Of the 78 2 × 2 ordinal games, 17 are vulnerable to tacit deception and 27 to revealed deception; in 11 of the 17 vulnerable to tacit deception, including the Revelation Game, revealed deception leads to a better outcome than tacit deception. See Steven J. Brams, Deception in 2 × 2 games, J. Peace Sci. 2 (Spring 1977), 171–203;Google Scholar
  10. 11a.
    for an analysis of deception possibilities in other games, see Brams and Frank C. Zagare, Deception in simple voting games, Social Sci. Res. 6, 3 (September 1977), 257–272; Brams and Zagare, Double deception: two against one in three-person games, Theory and Decision 13, 1 (March 1981), 81–90. Applications of deception analysis to political games are given in Zagare, A game-theoretic analysis of the Vietnam negotiations: preferences and strategies 1968–1973, J. Conflict Resolution 21, 4 (December 1977), 663–684; Zagare, The Geneva Conference of 1954: a case of tacit deception, Int. Studies Quarterly 23, 3 (September 1979), 390–411; and Douglas Muzzio, Watergate Games: Strategies, Choices, Outcomes (New York: New York University Press, 1982), pp. 43–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 12.
    John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, Theory of Gamesand Economic Behavior, 3rd Ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953). A relatively nontechnical explication of these concepts and underlying calculations for two-person constant-sum games is given in Brams, Game Theory and Politics (New York: Free Press, 1975), pp. 1–25.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    The calculations that follow were developed in collaboration with Morton D. Davis, for whose advice I am grateful. Although they are very different from the calculations developed in Vladimir A. Lefebvre, Algebra of Conscience: A Comparative Analysis of Western and Soviet Ethical Systems (Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel, 1982), Lefebvre also analyzes ethical structures that underlie good and evil. He shows how they differ fundamentally in Western and Soviet societies.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Frederick Sontag, The God of Evil: An Argument from the Existence of the Devil (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 134.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Schocken, 1981).Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    In When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner quotes Job (p. 41) to the effect that there are “no rules” in understanding God: “He snatches away— who can stop Him? Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’ ” (Job 9:12). Yet, as I showed, arbitrary and seemingly unfathomable behavior is entirely consistent with rules of those games that prescribe random strategy choices. That God in fact makes these choices, perhaps for our own good, I cannot say. However, arbitrariness itself is certainly not inexplicable behavior in games; indeed, it may be optimal to use subterfuge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven J. Brams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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