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A Game-Theoretic Interpretation of Sun Tzu's the Art of War

Niou, Emerson M. S. and Ordeshook, Peter C. (1990) A Game-Theoretic Interpretation of Sun Tzu's the Art of War. Social Science Working Paper, 738. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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Over twenty five hundred years ago the Chinese scholar Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, attempted to codify the general strategic character of conflict and, in the process, offer practical advice about how to win military conflicts. His advice is credited with having greatly influenced both Japanese military and business practices, as well as Mao Tse-Tung's approach to conflict and revolution. The question, however, is whether or to what extent Sun Tzu anticipated the implications of the contemporary theory of conflict -- game theory. The thesis of this essay is that he can be credited with having anticipated the concepts of dominant, minmax, and mixed strategies, but that he failed to intuit the full implications of the notion of equilibrium strategies. Thus, while he offers a partial resolution of "he-thinks-that-I-think" regresses, his advice remains vulnerable to a more complete strategic analysis.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
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Additional Information:This research was supported by NSF grant #SES-8822308 to Duke University and NSF grant #SES-8922262 to the California Institute of Technology Published as Niou, Emerson MS, and Peter C. Ordeshook. "A Game-Theoretic Interpretation of Sun Tzu's: The Art of War." Journal of Peace Research 31, no. 2 (1994): 161-174.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
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Subject Keywords:Game theory, Military strategy, Circular logic, War, Chess, Mixed strategy, Soul, Nash equilibrium, Reasoning, Expected values
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:738
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170831-162255007
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:81054
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:01 Sep 2017 17:21
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:38

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