conventional theory of rational choice treats the individual as the unit of agency. Recommendations are addressed separately to each individual: an act is recommended to a person on the grounds that, if he performs it, his ends will be advanced. But the Principle of Co-ordination does not work like this.
Consider the position of someone who is playing Black, Red, and White as A. Appealing to the Principle of Co-ordination, we recommend her to choose 'red'. But suppose she asks us to show her that it is in her interest to choose this strategy. We can show that it is in A's interest to choose 'red' if B can be expected to choose 'red' too. But what reason does A have to expect this? It would be circular for us to appeal to the Principle of Co-ordination at this point, since the validity of that principle is precisely what is at issue. Nor would we make any progress by pointing out that it is in B's interest to choose 'red' if he can expect A to choose 'red': that is just another step in an infinite regress.
If A insists on being shown that it is in her interest to choose 'red' before accepting that this is what it is rational for her to do, and if she supposes that B is thinking in a similar way, then we cannot show her that she should choose 'red'. What we can say is something like the following: 'Think of yourself and B together. It is in both your interests that you both choose "red".' Paradoxically, if A and B both accept that this provides them each with a sufficient reason to choose 'red', then each person's choosing 'red' will in fact be in his or her individual interest. Perhaps this is what Gauthier has in mind when he says that the Principle of Co-ordination is consonant with the spirit of act-consequentialism. In other words: two players who act on the Principle of Co-ordination will achieve the ends that, had they been act-consequentialists, they would have tried to achieve. But it is only because they are not act-consequentialists that they are able to act on the Principle of Co-ordination.
I began this chapter by asking how people achieve success when playing co-ordination games. If the argument of this chapter is correct, this success depends on the players' ability to think of their relationship to one another in a way that is foreign to the conventional theory of rational choice. As in the Kantian tradition of moral reasoning, each player follows principles that he can will to be rules for all players. But although each player is motivated by something beyond his individual objectives, each achieves success as measured by those objectives. Co-ordination problems seem to call for something more than instrumental rationality but something less than morality.
Bacharach M. ( 1991), 'Games with Context-sensitive Strategy Spaces', paper presented at International Conference on Game Theory, Florence, June 1991.
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Publication information: Book title: Ethics, Rationality, and Economic Behaviour. Contributors: Francesco Farina - Editor, Frank Hahn - Editor, Stefano Vannucci - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 261.
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