Bruce Chapman


In this Article I explain why game theory has been so unsuccessful in accounting for the role of language in social interaction. I begin by exploring some of its most basic difficulties in this respect, in games of pure coordination, and trace these difficulties back to the most fundamental organizing concepts in the theory of games, namely, Nash equilibrium and common knowledge of rationality. Nash thinkers and Nash actors, I argue, are doomed to have very impoverished conversations as Nash talkers. The sorts of conversations they will have will leave them paralyzed in games of pure coordination and largely uncooperative in games where their interactions are at least partially characterized by conflicts of interest. These conversations are impoverished because they attempt to forge only a causal connection across the verbal exchanges between rational actors, not a conceptual one. What is needed is the richer sort of conversation that is idealized by law, that is, one where there is an interpenetration of concepts and commitments in the use of language between rational actors, the sort of thing we see under a truly shared or public reason. Law's reasonable thinkers, I argue, are more capable of coordinating, and law's reasonable talkers more capable of cooperating, than their Nash counterparts because, under objective reasonableness, they are committed to a more public conception of their conduct shaping what they do together.

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