Hobbes’s State of Nature: A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis


Authors
Hun Chung
Waseda University
Abstract
Hobbes’s own justification for the existence of governments relies on the assumption that, without a government, our lives in the state of nature would result in a state of war of every man against every man. Many contemporary scholars have tried to explain why universal war is unavoidable in Hobbes’s state of nature by utilizing modern game theory. However, most game-theoretic models that have been presented so far do not accurately capture what Hobbes deems to be the primary cause of conflict in the state of nature – which is uncertainty, rather than people’s egoistic psychology. Any game- theoretic model that does not incorporate uncertainty into the picture is, therefore, I claim, the wrong model. In this paper, I use Bayesian game-theory to show how universal conflict can break-out in the state of nature - even when the majority of the population would strictly prefer to cooperate and seek peace with other people - due to uncertainty about the other person’s type. Along the way, I show that the valuation of one’s own life is one of the central mechanisms that drives Hobbes’s pessimistic conclusion.
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DOI 10.1017/apa.2015.12
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References found in this work BETA

An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals.David Hume & Tom L. Beauchamp - 1998 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 190 (2):230-231.
Egoism as a Theory of Human Motives.C. D. Broad - 1949 - Hibbert Journal 48:105-114.

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Citations of this work BETA

Locke, Nozick and the State of Nature.Justin P. Bruner - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
On Hobbes’s State of Nature and Game Theory.Bertrand Crettez - 2017 - Theory and Decision 83 (4):499-511.

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