An Analysis of "The Hobbes Game"

Teaching Philosophy 18 (3):257-268 (1995)
Abstract
In 1976, John Immerwahr published a classroom simulation designed to illustrate Hobbes’ model of the mutual transfer of rights in the formation of the social contract. The game is fruitfully seized upon in classrooms from a broad range of disciplines because the lesson of Hobbes’ state of nature and Immerwahr’s game can both be represented and elucidated by principles of game theory. This paper reintroduces a new generation of teachers to what the author calls “one of the finest philosophy simulations ever designed”, offers suggestions on conducting the game and on how Immerwahr’s implementation of it can be improved, and discusses its game-theoretic implications. Whereas Immerwahr’s version of the game approximates the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the version presented in this paper more closely resembles the “Assurance Game”. Accordingly, the results of the author’s game indicate that, if given the chance to cooperate, students do so, and the average student finishes the game better off than in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. The author relates the results of his game to the theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, and concludes by underscoring the richness of the game for philosophical analysis
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