Worldly philosophers

by Henry Farrell on January 31, 2004

Quote of the week from “Tyler Cowen”:

bq. I’ve been an economist for so long that I don’t flinch when the paper abstract starts as follows:

bq. “This paper models love-making as a signaling game. In the act of love-making, man and woman send each other possibly deceptive signals about their true state of ecstasy. Each has a prior belief about the other’s state of ecstasy. These prior beliefs are associated with the other’s sexual response capacity…”



tcb 01.31.04 at 6:42 pm

Gag. In the same spirit as “Fooling the Shrinks,” couldn’t we give homeless psychotics jobs writing scholarly papers on sex and see who notices?


Henry 01.31.04 at 6:55 pm

I had the opposite reaction (maybe I’ve been hanging around with economists too long). I imagine that the paper is at least in part an exercise in droll humour (‘pince-sans-rire’ as the French say), and wanted to buy the author a pint for pulling it off so well. I’ve always been keen on the use of game theory for intellectually subversive and/or artistic purposes; I reckon that if Alfred Jarry or the old Oulipo crowd were around today, they’d be pulling off outrages like this paper left, right and center.


Ophelia Benson 01.31.04 at 7:23 pm

That’s economics-speak? Really? I would have thought it was some other kind of speak – semiotics or something. Clearly I don’t read nearly enough game theory.


tcb 01.31.04 at 8:26 pm

Henry, attitude makes all the difference. When I re-read it with the expectation that it’s a joke, it was much more entertaining.


DJW 01.31.04 at 10:53 pm

Game theorists really like to talk about signalling. Semioticians can probably tell us more interesting and useful things about non-overt human communication, but they won’t be able to model it. No great loss, if you ask me….


bad Jim 02.01.04 at 7:34 am

This paper models X lulls you into a receptive frame of mind, the proscenium arch of the rigorous imagination. The rest, love-making as a signaling game, is utterly familiar to those of us old enough to have been surfeited with psychoanalytic suggestiveness.

Comments on this entry are closed.