Accounting for the 'Tragedy' in the Prisoner's Dilemma

Synthese 99 (2):251–76 (1994)
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The Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) exhibits a tragedy in this sense: if the players are fully informed and rational, they are condemned to a jointly dispreferred outcome. In this essay I address the following question: What feature of the PD's payoff structure is necessary and sufficient to produce the tragedy? In answering it I use the notion of a trembling-hand equilibrium. In the final section I discuss an implication of my argument, an implication which bears on the persistence of the problem posed by the PD.

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John J. Tilley
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis


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