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Posers and Puzzles

Posers and Puzzles

  1. 02 Mar '04 19:26
    Prisoners Dilemma
    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Tanya and Cinque have been arrested for robbing the Hibernia Savings Bank and placed in separate isolation cells. Both care much more about their personal freedom than about the welfare of their accomplice. A clever prosecutor makes the following offer to each. You may choose to confess or remain silent. If you confess and your accomplice remains silent I will drop all charges against you and use your testimony to ensure that your accomplice does serious time. Likewise, if your accomplice confesses while you remain silent, they will go free while you do the time. If you both confess I get two convictions, but I?ll see to it that you both get early parole. If you both remain silent, I?ll have to settle for token sentences on firearms possession charges. If you wish to confess, you must leave a note with the jailer before my return tomorrow morning.

    The dilemma faced by the prisoners here is that, whatever the other does, each is better off confessing than remaining silent. But the outcome obtained when both confess is worse for each than the outcome they would have obtained had both remained silent. A common view is that the puzzle illustrates a conflict between individual and group rationality. A group whose members pursue rational self-interest may all end up worse off than a group whose members act contrary to rational self-interest.

  2. Donation bbarr
    Chief Justice
    02 Mar '04 21:39
    Originally posted by ivanhoe
    Prisoners Dilemma
    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Tanya and Cinque have been arrested for robbing the Hibernia Savings Bank and placed in separate isolation cells. Both care much more about their personal freedom than about the welfare of their accomplice. A clever prosecutor makes the following offer to each. You may choose to confess or r ...[text shortened]... may all end up worse off than a group whose members act contrary to rational self-interest.

    The philosopher David Gauthier has tried to create a social contract theory of ethics based on these collective action problems. The book is called "Morals by Agreement", and it's quite good.
  3. 03 Mar '04 12:01 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by bbarr
    The philosopher David Gauthier has tried to create a social contract theory of ethics based on these collective action problems. The book is called "Morals by Agreement", and it's quite good.
    I'll add the book to my "Books to Read" list. Thanks for telling me.