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Game Theory and the HumanitiesBridging Two Worlds$
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Steven J. Brams

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262015226

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015226.001.0001

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Catch-22s in Literature and History

Catch-22s in Literature and History

(p.247) 10 Catch-22s in Literature and History
Game Theory and the Humanities

Steven J. Brams

The MIT Press

This chapter focuses on catch-22 games, where each player finds themself caught in a cycle from which it is difficult if not impossible to escape, and is organized as follows. Sections 10.2 and 10.3 show how the exercise of moving power can help the frustrated player, and sometimes the other player as well. Section 10.4 applies the theory of moves to the specific catch-22 game in Joseph Heller’s classic novel, Catch-22, which involves a pilot trying to avoid combat duty and a doctor who may declare him to be sane or not sane to fly. Section 10.5 shows that medieval witch trials can be conceptualized as a catch-22 game different from the game in Catch-22. Section 10.6 discusses the conflicts which king-of-the-mountain games seem best to model and shows that they, together with the twelve catch-22 games, exhaust the 2 × 2 cyclic games in which moving power is effective. The final section discusses ways of stabilizing outcomes by showing how players caught in catch-22 or king-of-the-mountain games might reach mutually satisfactory settlements.

Keywords:   game theory, catch-22 games, theory of moves, Joseph Heller

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