The Moral Poker Face: Games, Deception, and the Morality of Bluffing

Contemporary Philosophy (5&6):55-60 (2003)
Bluffing is essentially nothing more than a type of deception. But, despite its morally questionable foundation, it is not only permissible in certain contexts, but sometimes encouraged and/or required (e.g., playing poker). Yet, the question remains as to whether it is permissible to bluff in other contexts – particularly everyday situations. In this paper, I look at László Mérő’s argument – one based in game theory and Kantian ethics – to the end that bluffing is morally permissible in everyday contexts. I argue that Mérő’s argument is mistaken on two grounds. First, it includes an epistemic feature (i.e., knowledge that bluffing is part of the game) that is lacking in everyday contexts. Second, even if we add a proviso to solve this epistemic problem, the resulting strategies fail to guarantee an equilibrium state. Thus, I hope to show that Mérő’s attempt to justify the use of bluffing in everyday contexts fails.
Keywords Bluffing  Game Theory  Ethics
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