Omniscience and omnipotence: How they may help - or hurt - in a game1

Steven J. Brams

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The concepts of omniscience and omnipotence are defined in 2 x 2 ordinal games, and implications for the optimal play of these games, when one player is omniscient or omnipotent and the other player is aware of his omniscience or omnipotence, are derived. Intuitively, omniscience allows a player to predict the strategy choice of an opponent in advance of play, and omnipotence allows a player, after initial strategy choices are made, to continue to move after the other player is forced to stop. Omniscience and its awareness by an opponent may hurt both players, but this problem can always be rectified if the other player is omniscient. This pathology can also be rectified if at least one of the two players is omnipotent, which can override the effects of omniscience. In some games, one player’s omnipotence - versus the other’s - helps him, whereas in other games the outcome induced does not depend on which player is omnipotent. Deducing whether a player is superior (omniscient or omnipotent) from the nature of his game playing alone raises several problems, however, suggesting the difficulty of devising tests for detecting superior ability in games.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)217-231
    Number of pages15
    JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1982

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Philosophy
    • Health Policy


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