Biblical Games: Strategic Analysis of Stories of the Old Testament Hardcover – Jul 1980
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About the Author
Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at New York University. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Throughout the chapters, Brams looks at every character as a player in a game, which, by itself, is touted as a challenge whose outcome is dependent upon the type of decisions executed. He subsequently utilizes payoff matrices, which are 2x2 geometric patterns that represent the outcomes of at least four different courses of action, where the results are weighed in as follows: 4=Best, 3= Next Best, 2= Next Worst, and 1=Worst. For each game, Brams places these numbers in ordered pairs; for example, (1,1) would be the result of a worst case scenario for both parties, a (4,2) might be interpreted as a situation where Player/Group #1 has the best possible outcome at the expense of Player/Group #2, who must settle for what is interpreted as next to worst.
In Biblical Games, Brams makes transitions from one decision-making conflict to another. Some of the so-called games exclusively involve bitter enemies, others concern those who typically have one another's best interests at heart, and some just implicate those who are essentially indifferent about the next person's fate or welfare. As he proceeds from section to section, Brams surprises the reader with scenarios that can run counter to one's expectations by showing that regardless of the nature of the game or conflict, there can potentially exist a win-win outcome between enemies and an unmitigated disaster that can be brought forth between friends.Read more ›
Game theory is appropriate for the analysis of strategic decisions made in social situations - it should not matter if these social situations appear in the Bible or in the world oil market. If the "game" analyzed exhibits a solution consistent with certain assumptions (rationality, self-interestedness, and the like) about the players, then we say the player behaves as if they met these assumptions themselves. This is of course the same as the "as if" defense for economics generally, and there is even a (famous) similar defense for quantum mechanics: the only important thing is that particles behave as if they satisfied assumptions made about them. Clearly this is something that falls more in the realm of scientific method generally than in that of the methods of any particular science.
Brams is highly justified from a general modelling standpoint as well (am I the only one who thinks it odd that one should speak of *proving* results like this?). The earth may not be flat, but in so many instances it is modelled as such (or as locally such). Adding the sort of brownian variations from this structure that are clearly present at the very_local_level (or even in the large if you don't live in minnesota!Read more ›
The book was interesting and thought provoking. I would recommend it to anyone with a secular interest in game theory applied to a non-obvious choice of subject. The author isn't presuming to think like God. He is applying game theory to a group of situations many are already familiar with.
However, the author has written about the Hebrew Bible and game theory. The fact that I'm Jewish gives me some knowledge of the first subject, and that I am also a PhD student in Economics covers me on the second topic.
I have no doubt that the author applied rigorous, game-theoretic analysis to his subject material. But, as subject matieral, I am seriously disturbed that he chose the Old Testament. Some things lend themselves to particular types of analysis. For instance, a physicist uses quantum mechanics to model situations at the sub-atomic level, as opposed to using general relativity, since the former is more appropriate than the latter.
But I'm sorry: game theory and the bible go together like oil and water. I can't tell if this reflects worse on economics or religion.
Maybe next the author will prove that Juliet was acting strategically in her dealings with Romeo, or perhaps that Tom and Jerry were simply trapped in a repeated Prisoner's dilemna?
The author claims to make inferences concerning God's motivations and decisions over the course of events in the bible. The author claims to have an explanation for God's apparent frequently wrathful behavior. Maybe he even *proved* that his results.
In my opinion, anyone who believes the statements in this book must still be convinced that we didn't go to war with Irag over oil and that the Earth is flat.