At times philosophers are like magicians whose whole world of magic is bound within evasion and trickery, seeking to keep your mind occupied by the bells-and-whistles of distraction and stage props while the real work goes on elsewhere and in plain sight. The philosopher’s old enemy was the rhetorician, the Sophist, who could use the figures of intellect and speech to cover over the truth in a veil of pure illusion and make it seem by way of metaphor and rhetorical flourish the very thing itself. But the philosopher is himself caught in the trap of self-deception, believing that the very words he so uses under the scrutiny of careful persuasion and example have the power to awaken truth from its hiding places while all the time as Nietzsche reminds us: “Even great spirits have only their five-fingers’ breadth of experience – just beyond it their thinking ceases and their endless empty space and stupidity begins.”
We introduce an evolutionary game with feedback between perception and reality, which we call the reality game. It is a game of chance in which the probabilities for different objective outcomes (e.g., heads or tails in a coin toss) depend on the amount wagered on those outcomes. By varying the `reality map’, which relates the amount wagered to the probability of the outcome, it is possible to move continuously from a purely objective game in which probabilities have no dependence on wagers to a purely subjective game in which probabilities equal the amount wagered. We study self-reinforcing games, in which betting more on an outcome increases its odds, and self-defeating games, in which the opposite is true. This is investigated in and out of equilibrium, with and without rational players, and both numerically and analytically.