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The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia Paperback – November 9, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1551117720 ISBN-10: 155111772X Edition: 0th

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Paperback, November 9, 2005
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Editorial Reviews


"This unique book quite bowled me over, both intellectually and as a gorgeous literary feast. Bernard Suits not only makes philosophy enjoyable, as it should be, but does so without any compromise of real profundity. He engages not only Wittgenstein but human life itself at the highest level, in a book that challenges philosophical orthodoxies, while all the time flowing like honey." (Simon Blackburn)

"Like Erasmus's Praise of Folly and Diderot's Rameau's Nephew, Suits's The Grasshopper sparkles with wit and fun; and outranks those wonderful works in clear, firm philosophical conclusions. Defying certain discouragements, Suits constructs an illuminating definition of games, which he defends in lively dialogues, amusing parables, and cascades of subtle analytical distinctions. That is achievement enough to make a new classic in the history of philosophy. Suits offers more: an application of his definition in a discussion of how much we may have to rely on games――deliberately using relatively inefficient means to reach freely stipulated goals――if life is to continue to have meaning. We may be able to regain thereby the meaning lost as advances in technology enable us to escape one by one the tasks that necessity used to impose on humankind." (David Braybrooke)

"The Grasshopper is an amazing book. Philosophically profound, yet genuinely funny. While primarily an articulation and defense of a highly plausible definition of games, it also manages to raise some of the deepest and most challenging questions about the meaning of life. All in the form of dialogues between an insect and his disciples! There is simply nothing else like it." (Shelly Kagan)

From the Back Cover

In the mid twentieth century the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously asserted that games are indefinable; there are no common threads that link them all. "Nonsense," says the sensible Bernard Suits: "playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles." The short book Suits wrote demonstrating precisely that is as playful as it is insightful, as stimulating as it is delightful. Suits not only argues that games can be meaningfully defined; he also suggests that playing games is a central part of the ideal of human existence, so games belong at the heart of any vision of Utopia. Originally published in 1978, The Grasshopper is now re-issued with a new introduction by Thomas Hurka and with additional material (much of it previously unpublished) by the author, in which he expands on the ideas put forward in The Grasshopper and answers some questions that have been raised by critics.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Broadview Press (November 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155111772X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1551117720
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #523,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
This is a fascinating and thought-provoking book.
B. Glassco
This book makes you stop and think about yourself, your life and your expectations.
amir saarony
If you have any interest in understanding what games are, buy this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By on January 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
Suits' claim that he is not furthering the extensive work done in the field of game theory is correct, but i feel he underestimates his contribution to our understanding of the importance of liesure activities in our lives. i am not so interested in the mathematical proofs provided by Von Nueman and Morgenstern, and how game theory is applicable to life, as i am in discovering why i have such a fascination with games. Suits' Grasshopper, via a Platonic dialogue, examines the nature of the game, what it is, why it is employed, etc. This already effective narrative structure is further enhanced by the Grasshopper's many digressions and introductions of hypothetical characters and situations. Suits has created a meta-fictional forum for both discharging his ideas and entertaining the reader. i found myself compelled forward, relishing every word, and fascinated by Suits' logic process and conclusions. i recommend this title to anyone interested in a hybrid of game theory and actual game play; the book does not reduce games to a mathematical model but it also avoids describing any one game in particular. Rather Suits seems interested in analyzing the structure and nature of games as a whole. It is a philosophical outlook on a very intriguing subject.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By amir saarony on January 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in 1980. It was a gift from my best and wisest friend, the hardcover version which I still treasure to this day. I have since probably bought half a dozen copies of this for the distinct reason that I felt someone merited a copy as a gift. This book makes you stop and think about yourself, your life and your expectations. It does not criticize your path nor does it necessarily offer an alternative. It just makes you think....... in an easy, enjoyable manner. This book won't give you the "secret" to a fulfilling life of health, wealth or whatever else you seek, but it will make you think...... and every now and then you may actually catch yourself smiling as you do so. Recommended, highly - but more so, fondly remembered 20 years, university, failed and successful career prospects, failed and successful romantic prospects later. Yes so ever fondly remembered.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Klagge on July 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An odd but engaging book that takes on Wittgenstein's challenge to define "game." After considering only a few possibilities, Wittgenstein decides that game has no essential definition--that is, that there are no necessary and sufficient conditions true of all games (as "closed plane figure with 3 straight sides" gives necessary and sufficient conditions for being a triangle). Suits offers this definition of playing a game: "engaging in an activity directed towards bringing about a specific state of affairs, using only means permitted by rules, where the rules prohibit more efficient in favour of less efficient means, and where such rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity" (pp. 48-9). And then he offers a more memorable version (p. 55): "playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles." He then subjects this to multiple tests to show it covers all plausible cases, while excluding the right cases as well. Gets a bit tiresome at points, but is persuasive. The first appendix, where he reflects on the process of definition is especially interesting. The section towards the end where he reflects on the role of games in utopia was weird and not very interesting or convincing to me. As far as the challenge to Wittgenstein, I would say that Wittgenstein's real point was not that game could not be defined, but that it need not be defined (in essentialist terms) to be a perfectly useful concept. Wittgenstein proposed that it was a "family resemblance" concept, that had all the unity it needed from the various overlapping similarities that held the examples together. Suits considers this a cop-out--an excuse for not really seeking a definition. The deeper philosophical question is whether all concepts can be given essentialist definitions.Read more ›
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