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Finite and Infinite Games Paperback – January 5, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 926 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James P. Carse is Professor Emeritus of history and literature of religion at New York University. A winner of the University’s Great Teacher Award, he is author of The Religious Case Against Belief (2008) and Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience (1994). Carse lives in New York City and Massachusetts.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Free Press (January 5, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 160 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1476731713
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476731711
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 5.1 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.38 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 926 ratings

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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
926 global ratings

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Reviewed in the United States on October 6, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars Life as a simple game with rules but full of meanings.
Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2016
This is a book hard to classify. I bought it because I read some fragments of it in Robert Fulghum's [[ASIN:0060932228 Words I Wish I Wrote: A Collection of Writing That Inspired My Ideas]], where he quotes some of the aphorisms with what James P. Carse, the author, fills and charms the book.

As the title suggests, this is a work on finite and infinite games that purports "a vision of life as play and possibility." So if life is a game you should play it and if you play it you should follow the rules. Right, but what are the rules. Well, here enters Carse, who in seven chapters defines the game and unfolds and explains the rules.

The seven chapters are named in a very sportive (and even poetic) manner: There are at least to kind of games; No one can play a game alone; I am the genius of myself; A finite game occurs within a world; Nature is the realm of the unspeakable; We control nature for societal reasons; Myth provokes explanation but accepts none of it.

And there you are. As I said, the book is written in an aphoristic mode, as in [[ASIN:1909669792 Also sprach Zarathustra/Thus Spoke Zarathustra: German/English Bilingual Text (German Edition)]], but with much more sense than that Nietzsche's brick. "Finite and Infinite..." is not a wanton sum of sayings more or less wise. So please do not confound games with lightness or pastime. At least not in this book. So you have to keep in mind, as long as you read, that this is a book about life ("A vision of life..."), not about playing games as a part of your life.

Then, what are the rules? The rules are simple but full of derivatives or branches that have no limit. Like life itself that starts with a very simple origin and grows up in complexity and variety. That's why the first paragraph says that "There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite; the other infinite." As long as this rule begins to increase in complexity is very helpful to keep that definition in mind. Carse says that a game can be won, so the game ends, which is the finite case. Or the game is playing continuously because the purpose is not winning but to follow up the game, which is the infinite case.

Let's quote Carse: "Infinite players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game in not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play." Sounds mysterious? It is. We play infinite games as long as we live, and the finite games we play are there not only to compensate (or to maintain under control the anxiety and) our ignorance of who wins at last in the infinite version, but also to be prepared against, and to be educated for the surprises and twists that life put in front of us: "To be prepared against surprise is to be 'trained.' To be prepared for surprise is to be 'educated.'"

The probe of this work descends very deep. That's the reason why the last chapter is dedicated to the myth issue. For several years I've been studying the singularities of a myth, the purpose they have, why they appeared, why they are here with us in spite of the exponential growing of knowledge through science and the technological development associated with it. And Carse offers here one of the most astounding answers to my search, which is presented in the very title of the chapter: "Myth provokes explanations but accepts none of it." It is as if finite and infinite games collide in this final movement of the play, remembering us what the author told us at the beginning of the book: "Infinite players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play." If that is not the very source of a myth, then what.

Insofar as this book (a very brief book indeed, with 149 pages) is about games, we as a readers are players also, so maybe there are as many readings as readers. Or almost. Yet, it remains (or let) something that to me is unequivocal: life can be seen as a game so it has rules. This book propose that rules in a temporal basis (finite vs. infinite). If you look for, you could find others, but to me this book offers the most amazing explanation to the philosophical question that beats under our skins all the time: what is life?

A game. "There are at least to kind of games..."

Highly recommended.
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Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2018
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Danack
1.0 out of 5 stars Incoherent nonsense
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 22, 2019
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GavH
4.0 out of 5 stars Read, re-read, and read again...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 17, 2018
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Tom Cassidy
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly good
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 19, 2018
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E FREW
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing, ambiguous mess
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 20, 2021
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Nicholas Heap
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and challenging
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 25, 2014
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