Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Superior Beings. If They Exist, How Would We Know?: Game-Theoretic Implications of Omnipotence, Omniscience, Immortality, and Incomprehensibility by Steven J Brams:
The plural “Beings” in the title of this book is a little misleading. The text is not a discussion of polytheistic deity, angels, praeterhuman extraterrestrials, or hidden adepts. It is instead an application of game theory mathematics to the issue of relationships between a hypothetical person (P) and a “superior being” (SB). Moreover, the “superior being” postulated is of the sovereign type common to Abrahamic monotheism. In creating his preference rankings for applying various 2×2 game matrices to relations between SB and P, Brams uses interpretations of biblical narratives as justifications. My own esoteric interests had me coming to this book with curiosity about its conclusions relative to mahatmas or secret chiefs, but I find that its models are far more relevant to relations between an aspirant and his personal genius, or Holy Guardian Angel.
“Superior being” seems to be a deliberate weakening of the “supreme being” used in Western theological parlance. Brams is interested in modeling relations with a being whose powers and horizons immeasurably exceed the human, but he is not concerned with the traditional and trivial paradoxes of rigorous omnipotence. By positing an SB that submits to the calculus of the games in this book, he suggests that the answer to the question “Could God create a rock so big that He couldn’t lift it?” is certainly yes. And he accurately points out the fact that some passages of the Bible indicate a God of vast but finite power.
Still, the dependence on biblical notions of divine behavior is awfully limiting for anyone with a genuine philosophical interest in “superior beings.” The author seems to admit as much when he refers to a game schematic “which seems to offer a generic representation of God’s retribution in the Bible — and maybe elsewhere” (139). (Even so, the notion of the Biblical God as the national genius of the Hebrews makes these game representations reasonable on a certain level.) Brams does provide some interesting challenges to Pascal’s Wager, and he concludes with a novel perspective on the Problem of Evil.
The book is also an engaging introduction to the mathematical techniques involved in game theory analyses. Brams presumes no prior experience in game theory on the reader’s part, and provides a rich context for examining these logical tools. [via]
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