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Anger is a way of pre-comitting to a course of action. Like in a game of chicken, the best way to win is to throw your steering wheel out the window, thus pre-comitting to a certain course of action. In a prisoners dilemna, a powerful way to play is to precommit to cooperate by default, but always defect forever if someone defects (see The evolution of cooperation)

When you get angry, other people know that you are no longer thinking rationally. You cannot be bargained with, you may not respond rationally to threats. This reduces their options and makes it more likely that they will conceed.

This is very similar to the thought experiment in Reasons and Persons

I remember reading Schelling’s The Strategy of Conflict. I also have a special drug, conveniently at hand. This drug causes one to be, for a brief period, very irrational. Before the man can stop me, I reach for the bottle and drink. Within a few seconds, it becomes apparent that I am crazy. Reeling about the room, I say to the man: ‘Go ahead. I love my children. So please kill them.’ The man tries to get the gold by torturing me. I cry out: ‘This is agony. So please go on.’

It can be dangerous of course, if the opponent is also angry, and both of you escalate again and again, spiralling out of control, and kill each other.

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Last modified 2019-05-17 Fri 14:42. Contact