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Philosophy Looks at Chess Paperback – September 2, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812696336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812696332
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"This book is highly recommended to anyone who is interested in chess – not as a sport, not even as an art. But as a way to think about life, the universe, and everything." – Arne Moll, ChessVibes.com, 7 November 2008

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Howard Goldowsky on October 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Philosophy Looks at Chess (Open Court, 2008) is a collection of twelve essays - each written by a professional philosopher and collectively edited by Benjamin Hale - that explore chess through a lens of philosophical thought. The book's format is modeled after, but not included in, Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, which covers a variety of trendy topics such as Bruce Springsteen, iPods, and, to chess players' envy, even poker. So it was no surprise to read midway through the poignant and sobering essay, "The Reviled Art," about the disdain for chess in American culture, written by International Master and Professor Stuart Rachels, that when comparing the profit potential of Philosophy Looks at Chess to books about other cultural topics, "[...the publishers] thought it would not sell." Most of the essays in the book vaunt a technical approach targeting chess and philosophy cognoscenti, with some even retreating into that dense academic style appreciated only by philosophers.

Chess is so complex that, like the human mind, even today's best computer algorithms running on the fastest hardware surrender, at a finite depth after a fixed amount of time, to the endless variations. Unless there is a forced win, this complexity results in both humans and computers making subjective decisions every move. It is this subjectivity that ultimately links philosophy - a mainstay of rhetoric and debate - with strategy and, to some extent, tactics.
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Format: Paperback
Philosophy Looks at Chess is an anthology of twelve essays by expert philosophers, each of which critically examines fascinating (and sometimes playful) philosophical questions that draw upon chess as a reference point, metaphor, or source of inspiration. Among the topics discussed at length are "Do chess players think in words?", "Is chess really a game?", "Does chess explain how a benevolent God might exist in a world permeated by evil?", and "Is Garry Kasparov a cyborg?". "The moves chess players make during chess games are in large part determined by the threats they see to the aspects of the game they choose to value most. For example, chess players who place the highest value on their queen would be less likely to sacrifice that piece for attacking chances or mating possibilities. Just as players who value their pawn structure would be less likely to accept an open file as a compensatory justification for double pawns. These dispositions are in large part related to narratives we play by in a game, or the myths that we believe determine the 'right moves'." A highly intellectual discussion that philosophers and chess players of all experience levels can enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter B. on December 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting read about the various topics surrounding chess. But it helps to have a fairly good knowledge of philosophy to thoroughly enjoy it. It's a discussion of the 'issues' in and around chess, such as whether an intelligent computer actually "understands" what it's doing when it plays chess, what it means to be intelligent, what it means to understand, and so on along these lines. Essays refer to many of the classic publications in philosophy to make their point, with lots and lots of footnotes -- so typical of analytic academic philosophy. There are also essays about chess itself -- for e.g. whether it's actually a game. Of course that depends on how you define "game." If you enjoy chess but don't enjoy the many "variations" that come up in a philosophical discussion, this book may not hold your attention for long. I enjoyed it, but I love philosophy as much as I love chess!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bom Trown on January 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
I am going to go ahead and give this book a five because the essays contained within really give the reader something to think about. One or two of them might have you scratching your head saying "huhhhh?", but this is about philosophy so there are going to be some crazy stretches of the imagination here and there. Each of the 12 essays provides something interesting for you to think about. Only a few games/board positions included.
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I must predicated this review by declaring that I have given short shrift to psychological purviews of chess as presented in several books I've reviewed here at Amazon. In general, many who think about chess do so to a depth which seems to reveal more about the thinker than it does about the experience of most of its players. However, I have an all-immersive goal to which I've decided to dedicate my spare time. Enjoying chess as much as I do, I decided to spend a few years reading books ABOUT the game for entertainment when I am not reading HOW-TO manuals addressing the nuances of improving my playing skills. Yes, I have Chess Fever (do see the 1925 Russian silent comedy of the same name). This book turned out to be so much more than I bargained for! At the onset, I realized that I needed my 10-pound 4-inch dictionary ever-present during the read! Also a must is a pencil and a note-pad where I can jot down both the new words that crop up every 2-3 pages as well as their definitions. I swear, dear readers, that there is a gallifmaufry of new words in this book. That's right... a gallimaufry! For these, I am certain, we have philosophers to thank. Without a doubt, they look at chess far more deeply than psychologists, who mostly seem obsessed with Oedipal lust and patricide. The book is a series of essays by different philosophers, making for each chapter having a new voice even though the theme remains the same. This is not a quick read, but it certainly is an eye-opener with respect to the root intentions of the discipline of philosophy. You won't need a hatful of brains but a couple pounds or so can't hurt, and be sure you have that massive dictionary nearby!
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