On The Narrow Epistemology of Game-Theoretic Agents

  • Boudewijn de Bruin *
Part of the Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science book series (LEUS, volume 15)


It is argued that game-theoretic explanations of human actions make implausible epistemological assumptions. A logical analysis of game-theoretic explanations shows that they do not conform to the belief-desire framework of action explanation. Epistemic characterization theorems (specifying sufficient conditions for game-theoretic solution concepts to obtain) are argued to be the canonical way to make game theory conform to that framework. The belief formation practices implicit in epistemic characterization theorems, however, disregard all information about players except what can be found in the game itself. Such a practice of belief formation is implausible.


Utility Function Nash Equilibrium Game Theory Solution Concept Belief Revision 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aumann, R. (1995). Backward induction and common knowledge of rationality. Games and Economic Behavior, 8:6–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aumann, R. and Brandenburger, A. (1995). Epistemic conditions for nash equilibrium. Econometrica, 63:1161–1180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Battigalli, P. and Bonanno, G. (1999). Recent results on belief, knowledge and the epistemic foundations of game theory. Research in Economics, 53:149–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bennett, M. and Hacker, P. (2003). Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Blackwell, Malden, MA.Google Scholar
  5. Bernheim, B. (1984). Rationalizable strategic behavior. Econometrica, 52:1007–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. de Bruin, B. (2004). Explaining Games: On the Logic of Game Theoretic Explanations. Ph.D. thesis, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  7. Gettier, E. (1963). Is justified true belief knowledge? Analysis, 23:121–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hintikka, J. (1996). The Principles of Mathematics Revisited. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  9. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945). Phénoménologie de la perception. Librairie Gallimard, Paris.Google Scholar
  10. Pearce, D. (1984). Rationalizable strategic behavior and the problem of perfection. Econometrica, 52:1029 – 1050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Spohn, W. (1982). How to make sense of game theory. In Balzer, W., Spohn, W., and Stegmüller, W., editors, Studies in Contemporary Economics, volume 2: Philosophy of Economics, pages 239–270. Springer, Berlin.Google Scholar
  12. Stalnaker, R. (1996). Knowledge, belief and counterfactual reasoning in games. Economics and Philosophy, 12:133–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Stalnaker, R. (1998). Belief revision in games: Forward and backward induction. Mathematical Social Sciences, 36:31–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. von Neumann, J. and Morgenstern, O. (1944). Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boudewijn de Bruin *
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations