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Biblical Games - Game Theory & the Hebrew Bible [Anglais] [Broché]

Steven J Brams

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In this unusual book, first published by The MIT Press in 1980 and now updated with a new chapter, Steven Brams applies the mathematical theory of games to the Hebrew Bible. Brams's thesis is that God and the human biblical characters acted rationally--that is, given their preferences and their knowledge of other players' preferences, they made strategy choices that led to the best attainable outcomes.Beginning with the Creation and focusing on those stories richest in conflict and intrigue, Brams uses elementary game-theoretic tools to elucidate the rational calculations of biblical players and to show precisely the manner in which they sought to achieve their goals. He relies almost exclusively on noncooperative theory, making use of both game tree and matrix forms of games. Brams uses his strategic analyses to build a detailed assessment of God's character and motivations, including the reasons for His frequently wrathful behavior. Brams's insights have application to biblical studies, the philosophy of religion, political theory, and game theory and methodology.In the new chapter, Brams surveys the literature of the past twenty years on political-strategic interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. He also extends the game-theoretic analysis, using the theory of moves, to study a counterfactual situation--what if Abraham had refused God's command to sacrifice Isaac?--and to examine the rationality of believing in a superior being.

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Amazon.com: 3.6 étoiles sur 5  5 commentaires
24 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Five Stars if Accompanied with Brams' Theory of Moves 21 janvier 2004
Par JON STRICKLAND - Publié sur Amazon.com
Brams' Biblical Games is one of the most fascinating reads that I have encountered in some time. Presented are accounts of significant events recorded in the Old Testament, all of which are logically and mathematically examined by Brams, who uses aspects of game theory to determine the rationality of each person or assembly involved.
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.
Interesting are the interpretations of the numbers assigned in each matrix. Brams often interprets a player's score of 1 (worst case) as being the result of that particular player's ineptness to make adequate decisions and that this insufficiency could be due to either recklessness or lack of fortitude, or both. A 2, on the other hand, though a next to worst, has the capacity to be esteemed as the outcome of a most logical decision made by a player who lacks the resources to put him/herself into a better situation but enough to avoid disaster. Not only does Brams weigh the outcome of what actually happened, but he also presents the logic, or lack thereof, of alternate decisions and how they all would likely have turned out.
Biblical Games is very thought provoking, even sobering. Ideally, it should help one to weigh more carefully and more wisely the consequences of the decisions that he or she makes.
On its own, Biblical Games gets four stars, but tied in with Brams' Theory of Moves, it easily gets five. From the latter book, you will have tied in with appreciating the logic of what actually happened and what might have otherwise happened à la Biblical Games a more refined, more exact analysis of potential moves and countermoves that can be applied to personal challenges in the distant future.
19 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great primer on game theory 21 janvier 2005
Par A. Scott Cunningham - Publié sur Amazon.com
I'm enjoying this book far more than all the other elementary game theory textbooks I've plowed through. I'm a doctoral student in economics, and I'm reading this book for a readings class. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in dipping their feet into game theory. It's very readable and uses no mathematics, thus making it accessible to the non-technician and beginner.

Brams uses 2x2, non-cooperative models of complete information for the most part. He uses both game trees and normal expressions of the situations under analysis. This is, I think, one of the strengths of the book. The stories are familiar, if you are familiar with the Judeo-Christian religion, and thus this captures one's attention in ways that abstract stories about prisoners, and husband and wives and other classic illustrations in game theory may not. God is included as a player in situations Brams analyzes, and his interpretations are, at the very least, illuminating. While reading it, I was reminded of an Edmund Burke quote which more or less says that even heresy is valuable insofar as it stirs the stagnant waters of science such that progress can be made. I am finding that even when I disagree with Brams interpretation, his game theoretic explanation nonetheless sheds some light on the story, as well as on broader spiritual ideas like faith and rationality.

One criticism I have of the book is, though, that it is limited only to games of complete information. As I said, I do believe that the fact that this book only uses noncooperative games of complete information is its strength, precisely because I believe this book is helpful as a primer to game theory. But, because he omits problems of imperfect information, I am left wondering whether he has truly modeled many of these situations as accurately as he could have. For instance, when dealing with the "sacrifice game" involving God and Abraham, wherein God has ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Brams seems to treat Abraham as having complete foreknowledge of God's preference rankings of the four various outcomes. It is difficult for me to believe that Abraham, even being an intimate to God, would possess this kind of knowledge. I would have preferred to see Brams introduce models which would allow Abraham to deal with the asymetric information inherent in this kind of situation. Is anything lost by assuming complete information in these games? Not necessarily. Having not worked the alternative problems out for myself, I cannot say, but since Brams is so effective at making game theory accessible in this book, I believe he had ample opportunities in the book to introduce slightly more complicated notions like mixed strategies and signaling. He certainly is talented and creative enough to do so.

All in all, I recommend the book to all students of economics, religion, sociology and political science. I do not necessarily believe that the analysis is hugely valuable for the more generally "spiritual" person, but I definitely would not discourage that person from reading the book. Brams is unusually gracious and respectful of religion, generally, and the characters (including God) in this book. That is definitely a plus. It is rare for anyone to assume rationality when thinking about religion, and when scholars finally do, I tend to be impressed. And I was impressed with Brams, both for the tone of the book, but also for the content. Highly recommended.
21 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Actually very interesting 20 mai 2003
Par David M. Swagler - Publié sur Amazon.com
Just for grins, I decided to actually review this book AFTER I read it. The previous reviewer should consider doing same.
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.
13 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 pay no attention to oil and water 4 octobre 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
He didn't read the book and misinterpreted the whole concept of it. Just because your jewish does't make you an expert on the old testament.
8 internautes sur 145 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Oil and Water 9 mai 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Let me be perfectly truthful and upfront: I have not read this book. And I'm only vaguely familiar with other works by the author.
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.
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