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Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility Mass Market Paperback – August 12, 1987
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For example, the book contains an interesting theory about sexuality, as being either a finite game (§§ 54-59) or an infinite game (§§ 60-62). The contrast between perceiving sexual relationships as finite or infinite is startling. On a broader (yet surprisingly even more personal) level, in his chapter titled "A Finite Game Occurs Within a World" (ch. 4), Carse explores the individual's struggle with defining, regarding, and regulating the world around oneself in a way that includes everyone around one, or just oneself alone.
The first step in appreciating this book is understanding that any relationship or process can be characterized in "finite" or "infinite" terms. The second step is recognizing that that characterization is almost always a matter of choice and that, by choosing to characterize a relationship as "infinite," one can redefine it in a meaningful and healthy way. After reading this book, you may never look at the world around you, or at any relationship, or at yourself in quite the same way. This book reconfigures thinking about interpersonal reality as deeply as Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" reconfigured thinking about the scientific method.
This is what philosophy should be like. It is philosophical poetry. One of the most unique aspects of the book is that nowhere does Carse attack another view or provide a first principles defense of his own view. He provides a vision, helps us reinterpret the world, and then lets the insight it provides be its own defense. The following quote from the text reflects much on Carse's project:
"Storytellers do not convert their listeners; they do not move them into the territory of a superior truth. Ignoring the issue of truth and falsehood altogether, they offer only vision. Storytelling is therefore not combative; it does not succeed or fail. A story cannot be obeyed. Instead of placing one body of knowledge against another, storytellers invite us to return from knowledge to thinking, from a bounding way of looking to an horizonal way of seeing." (sec 78)
Perhaps Carse cannot succeed in his project, but certainly his vision is compelling.
Robert Pirsig is quoted on the back cover: "Normally we add new facts to existing knowledge.Read more ›
I wouldn't call "Finite and Infinite Games" a 'willful complication of thought,' as one reviewer put it; if it is, it is only in the sense that new ways of looking at the world seem complicated at first. That said, Carse's enthusiasm for his concept of finite and infinite games tends to get the better of him, inasmuch as he is often too quick to file phenomena into either the 'finite' category or the 'infinite' category, when a more subtle approach would be appropriate. But, as I said, this is more poetry than science.
Which is not to say that Carse's book is useless, or 'metaphysical': in fact, I found it to be one of the more profound books I've ever read, if only for the many startling thoughts contained in it. Carse's treatments of sexuality, the unspeakability of nature, indeed, the whole idea of an infinite activity, all resonated with me, if not for their truth, then for the possibility of their truth.
Possibility, in fact, is a major theme of this book: as Carse puts it: "Who must play cannot play." Which means, you have a lot more freedom than you think, if you are aware of the customary nature of human activities and how their boundaries can be played with. One doesn't have infinite power; indeed, infinite players, according to Carse, do not seek power as an end but only as a means to continuing play. How much truth there is in such a claim I leave to the reader, where it is sure to be much more lively.
In short, read this book, be captivated by it, but don't expect any final answers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If I had been introduced to this book as a young person - I wonder what my life would be like now. Should come leather bound and placed on the shelf next and prior to the bible... Read morePublished 9 days ago by j_jones
All weapons are designed to affect others without affecting ourselves, to make others answerable to the technology in our control.Published 26 days ago by Sam Smeed
This book provides a way to reconceptualise the world entirely. Its methods can be applied to a myriad of disciplines and ideas. Truly profound.Published 29 days ago by Thaddeus
I thought this was exactly what I was looking for when I picked it up, and I'm sure that a lot of people will. Read morePublished 1 month ago by zeroKelvin
My favorite book, ever. I've re-read this multiple times and have given my copy to a dear friend :)Published 1 month ago by Jenn
Cohesive and thought-provoking.
Now, the challenge of finding ways different types of game players can continue enjoying the game and valuing the lessons learned along the... Read more
This is a book hard to classify. I bought it because I read some fragments of it in Robert Fulghum's Words I Wish I Wrote: A Collection of Writing That Inspired My Ideas, where he... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Odysseus at home