Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 145–162 | Cite as

John Nash, Game Theory, and the Schizophrenic Brain

  • Donald CappsEmail author
Original Paper


This article focuses on John Nash, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994, and subject of the Award winning 2001 film A Beautiful Mind, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1958 at the age of 29. After presenting an account of the emergence, course, and eventual remission of his illness, the article argues for the relevance of his contribution to game theory, known as the Nash equilibrium, for which he received the Nobel Prize, to research studies of the schizophrenic brain and how it deviates from the normal brain. The case is made that the Nash equilibrium is descriptive of the normal brain, whereas the game theory formulated by John van Neumann, which Nash’s theory challenges, is descriptive of the schizophrenic brain. The fact that Nash and his colleagues in mathematics did not make the association between his contributions to mathematics and his mental breakdown and that his later recovery exemplified the validity of this contribution are noted and discussed. Religious themes in his delusional system, including his view of himself as a secret messianic figure and the biblical Esau, are interpreted in light of these competing game theories and the dysfunctions of the schizophrenic brain. His recognition that his return to normalcy came at the price of his sense of being in relation to the cosmos is also noted.


John Nash Paranoid schizophrenia Rand corporation Game theory John von Neumann Nash equilibrium The schizophrenic brain Gordon Claridge Delusional system Religious themes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton Theological SeminaryPrincetonUSA

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