Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 21]

Rationality, strategy and information (cont.)

The previous two posts introduced some assumed characteristics all agents related to sovereignty and cosmopolitanism may have. In that sense, players in a territorial dispute, despite their own specific properties as hosts, participants, attendees and viewers, are assumed to be rational, have strategies and information.

The latest post referred in particular the rationality of the agents. It is time to center the attention on strategies and information.

Strategy and information

In ideal terms, it is possible to model players.[1] However rational these players may appear in theory, real case scenarios always include elements beyond the abstractions such as nationalisms, passion and emotion (see previous post).

To a similar extent, agents that have to do with cosmopolitanism and sovereignty may be part of theoretical experiments of the form of n-person games in which the players are not allowed to communicate, others in which they may allow communication and take the form of cooperative or non-cooperative games.[2]

In that vein, players in game theory may use the same strategy (Symmetric Nash Equilibrium with n-players) or they may do something else (Asymmetric NE: Not all players use the same strategy).[3] For this kind of understandings, strategy is a predetermined “programme of play” that informs the player what actions to take in response to every possible strategy other players might use.” 

Important to the players and their strategies, the information available to them according to game theory may be perfect or imperfect. By perfect information it is assumed the players would have access to data relevant to themselves, the game and their counterpart while a game assuming imperfect information would omit any or all the data.

Authors in legal and political sciences have experimented with similar theoretical platforms. Contemporarily, Rawls states that “[t]he principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. This ensures that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in the choice of principles by the outcome of natural chance or the contingency of social circumstances.”[4] Moreover, he makes it even clearer that “[…] the parties are symmetrically situated in the original position.”[5]

In other words, Rawls assumes players are in equal terms in relation to the knowledge they have about themselves, their circumstances, their societies and any other information. Rawls explicitly explains: “[i]t is assumed, then, that the parties do not know certain kinds of particular facts” [6] and they know some others, but in any case, they all know the same circumstances and have access to the same information.

There are several issues if we circumscribe cosmopolitanism and sovereignty to the ideal realm only. An obvious example in territorial disputes that would challenge the value of in discussing complex results for general n-player games would be the by-default input complexity. This is not to say that such a theoretical evaluation is not useful. Indeed, as per the previous posts, such a theoretical exercise would enable the agreement of basic conceptual elements for the analysis of real case scenarios. What would be futile, because of its incompleteness and partiality, is to narrow down the analysis to purely ideal speculation.

For instance, in Núñez 2017 the author conducted a theoretical experiment in which challenger and challenges agents in a sovereignty conflict over a populated third territory were assumed to include certain characteristics. The author too assumed certain elements related to the procedure they would follow and particular characteristics in defining the representatives of each population in presupposed negotiations. However, the author made clear the goal was only to come up with a solution no reasonable party could reject.

The author’s next step, Núñez 2020, aimed to bring together some key conceptual elements and review them in the context of several ongoing real territorial disputes. The next step in the research would be the development of a complete theoretical methodology which embraces the concepts agreed in Núñez 2020 and show how the theoretical model created in Núñez 2017 could work, at least in theory.

Previous post:

Next theme:

Players, game theory and territorial disputes.

Author of:

Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Monday 17th May 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] K. Binmore, “Modeling Rational Players I,” Economics and Philosophy 3 (1987): 179–214.

[2] Morton D. Davis and Steven J. Brams, “The von Neumann-Morgenstern Theory,” Britannica available at accessed 17/05/2021.

[3] Felix Munoz-Garcia, “Nash Equilibrium with N Players,” School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University available at accessed 17/05/2021.

[4] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Revised Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 11.

[5] John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, A Restatement (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2003), 18.

[6] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Revised Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 118.

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