Kantian Ethics and the Prisoners' Dilemma
Eastern Economic Journal, 2009
10 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2008
Date Written: April 2, 2008
The prisoners' dilemma game stands as a seminal case of the conflict between individual and collective rationality. Some scholars have suggested that Kantian duty-based ethics can prevent the suboptimal outcomes associated with the game. I argue that this claim is too strong, because Kant's moral theory does not entail specific duties requiring cooperation in prisoners' dilemma games. I support this argument in terms of Kant's categorical imperative, and also with reference to his distinction between perfect and imperfect duties.
Keywords: prisoners' dilemma, game theory, ethics, Immanuel Kant
JEL Classification: A13, C71
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation