Protect my empire from the army of the enemy, bad harvest
-- Darius praying Ahuramazda (inscription at Perspolis)
As detailed in a previous
Tri-functional Ideology"), some ancient civilizations
had come to recognize three main social functions: cosmic and social sovereignty, physical
(usually violent) force and fertility/fecundity. Each function was represented
by its own God.
first function is of particular interest here. It was the
basis of government and religion (considered to be inseparable)
and defined the contractual relations and exchanges not only
among men but also between men and Gods . In those civilizations,
the God of the first function (Take, for instance, Mithra, the Indo-Iranian God of "Contract and Friendship" or Tyr the
Nordic God of "Contract") was usually very powerful
. It is argued here that the God of Contract was in
fact the image of an unconscious and archetypal ingredient
Through the ages, evolution has biased
man's reasoning ability toward favoring long-term social
contracts. Man, therefore, has an unconscious tendency to
view all social exchanges in a long-term context. This archetype-God
is -- in average -- strong enough not to need the help of
such painful supplements as fear and guilt which constrain
instincts and are detrimental to the mental health of the
individual and the stability of society. Indeed, some recent scientific results prove the long-term
sustainability of an altruistic approach of social exchange.
They show that altruistic behavior has a natural basis and
does not have to be the result of man-made moral/legal systems.
understand those studies, let us first introduce the "Prisoner's
Dilemma" game. Assume that the game has two players and that
the players can choose between two moves, either "cooperate" or "defect".
The idea is that each player gains when both cooperate, but
if only one of them cooperates, the other one, who defects,
will gain more. If both defect, both lose but not as much
as the "cheated" cooperator whose cooperation is
not returned. The game and its different outcomes can be
summarized by the following table, where hypothetical "points" are
given as an example of how the differences in outcome might
Outcome for Actor A
Very bad (- 2)
Very Good (+2)
Table: Prisoner's Dilemma game
outcomes for Actor A (in words, and in "points")
depending on the combination of A's action and B's action
(a similar scheme applies to the outcomes for Actor
Such a distribution of losses and gains
seems natural for many social interaction situations, since
the cooperator whose action is not returned will lose resources
to the defector, without either of them being able to collect
the additional gain coming from the synergy of their cooperation.
The gain for mutual cooperation (+1 point in the example)
in the Prisoner's Dilemma is kept smaller than the gain for
one-sided defection (+2 points in the example), so that there
would always be a temptation to defect. An interactive implementation
of the Prisoner's Dilemma game can be found here.
The game's name refers to a famous hypothetical
situation: two criminals, having committed a crime together,
are arrested. In order to obtain confessions, the Police isolates the
prisoners from each other, and visits each offering the following
deal: the one who accepts to bring evidence against the other
one will be freed. If none of them accepts the offer (that
is, if they accept to cooperate with each other), both of
them will receive a small punishment because of the Police's
lack of proof. If one of them confesses to the police (that
is, if one of them defects), he will gain more, since he
is freed; the one who remained silent, on the other hand,
will receive a harsh punishment because of the evidence against
him and the fact that he refused to talk. If both betray,
both will be punished, but do not receive a very harsh punishment
since they accepted to talk. The dilemma results from
the fact that each of the prisoners has a choice between
only two options, but cannot make a good decision without
knowing what the other one will do.
The particularity of the Prisoner's Dilemma
is that if both decision-makers were purely rational,
they would never cooperate. Rational decision-making would
require that you make the decision which is best whatever
the other actor chooses. Suppose the other one would defect,
then it is also rational for you to defect: you won't gain
anything, but if you do not defect you will lose 2 points.
Suppose the other one would cooperate, then you will
gain anyway, but you will gain more if you do not cooperate,
so here too the rational choice is to defect. The problem
is that if both actors are rational, both will decide to
defect, and none of them will gain anything! However, if
both would "irrationally" decide to cooperate,
both would gain 1 point.
Through numerical simulation of the repeated
Prisoner's Dilemma game, R. Axelrod 
has come to the conclusion that the cooperative "Tit-for-Tat" strategy
(put simply: begin by cooperating; after that simply copy
the opponent's last move: if he cooperates, cooperate, if
he defects, defect; but if the opponent returns to cooperating,
do the same) is superior to any other strategy even in a
predominantly selfish environment: in the long-term, it is
worthwhile to take the risk to cooperate and profit from
those players who trust you.
strategy can be described in the following terms:
It is better to be generous than greedy: begin each game
by offering to cooperate (it doesn't pay to start off taking
advantage of other players)
It is better to forgive quickly and try to re-establish cooperation
immediately after a defection: if an opponent tries to take
advantage of you, but changes their ways, you shouldn't hold
a grudge; grudges are self-destructive
It is necessary to be reactive, not to encourage treason:
make it clear that you won't stand betrayal
It is useless to try to be tricky; clarity of action is the
best guarantee of stable cooperation
This result shows clearly that, even in
the context of classical Darwinian evolution theory, intelligent
individuals  will come to cooperate while pursuing perfectly
selfish objectives. Axelrod's conclusion may then be restated:
competitive environment, without superior authority, cooperation
is the most appropriate strategy of survival.
Some more recent empirical studies (see
for instance ) show that the human reasoning capability
is basically context-dependent. Human mind is not
a reasoning machine. Presented in two different contexts,
the same logical problem (Watson logic test of the type: "if
p, then q") is solved by 75% of the people in the first
case and only 25% in the second case. The conclusion is that
people are good at spotting cheats (situation presented in
the first case) and enforcing social contracts. Generally,
the brain is now increasingly viewed as a bundle of job-specific
mechanisms shaped by evolution rather than a logical machine.
Logic is merely a codification of these elementary mental
Altruistic behavior of the kind "You
scratch my back, I'll scratch your back", which is the
basis of social life, is entirely dependent on man's ability
to keep close account of who owes what to whom or, in other
words, his ability to enforce contracts. That probably
explains the evolutionary development of that particular
mental ability. Some anthropologists think that this feature
of human mind was especially well adapted to the early societies
of hunters: a hunter may return empty-handed for days and
then suddenly catch more than he can eat.
This article suggests that the ancient
tri-functional civilizations had reached a high level of
social perfection. By acknowledging, institutionalizing and
internalizing the importance of fair cooperation and the
respect for contractual commitments, they had produced a
stable and natural way of regulating
social exchange. The moralistic/individualistic laws of
our monotheistic era constitute
an unnatural and occasionally destructive substitute.
Afshin Afshari was born in Iran and spent the first
16 years of his life there. In 1979, he went to France
where he finished high school and completed undergraduate
and graduate studies in Science and Management. He has
worked in R&D and technology management in France,
Germany, USA, and Canada. He currently lives in Montreal.
His main hobby is the study of Iranian history and religions
(pre- and post-Islamic).
 The original word is Draugha which
means lie as well as disregard for laws.
 G. Dumezil (1992), "Mythes et Dieux des Indo-Europeens", Flammarion [in French].
 Despite his predominance, the first God
co-existed and interacted with the other Gods: the contributions
of the second and third functions were recognized and celebrated.
At some point in time (in Iran, with the advent of Zoroastrian
monotheism), the men in charge of imposing the high morality
of the first function (usually priests) started to reject
and demonize the other functions (martial activities and
orgy-like cults of fecundity).
Robert Axelrod (1984), "The Evolution
of Cooperation", Basic Books. See also Axelrod's homepage.
 In fact, the conclusion
holds even for non-intelligent beings. For example, among
microscopic entities, the strategy may well be programmed
as a reflex and result from elementary physical and chemical
reactions. The main condition for the emergence of the cooperative
strategy is that the game be repeated long enough. It should
be noted, however, that, in order to play a repeated Prisoner's
Dilemma game, the players must possess some kind of recognition/identification
ability. This will enable them to play several games simultaneously
and enhance the evolutive process
of elimination of uncooperative elements. It can be said,
therefore, that complexity and intelligence favor cooperation.
 The Economist
(July 4, 1992), "A Critique of Pure Reason", pp 81-82.