THOMAS MORE RESEARCH CENTRE
Affiliate of the Thomas More Institute
“What Is a Game?”
Christopher C. Yorke
Department of Philosophy, The Open University [UK]
We all know what a game is—don’t we? Many of us have an intuitive sense that we do. Thus some may be surprised to discover that there is considerable philosophical disagreement on this very subject. For while there are some features that football, chess, tic-tac-toe, tag, videogames, lotto, and even children’s games all share, there are other features which stand in stark contrast to each other and suggest definite differences.
Herein lies the dilemma. Philosopher Bernard Suits thought it possible to create a definition of ‘game’—one that captures certain essential features of what every true game ought to entail. Ludwig Wittgenstein, on the other hand, argued that despite clear and obvious differences with respect to their structure, rules and objectives, all games nonetheless bear a “family resemblance.” In short, while Suits asks us to accept a definition of ‘game’ at the onset of inquiry and then apply it to existing ‘contenders’ to determine whether or not they are truly games, Wittgenstein considers what is already ‘out there’ in the world of games and, on that basis, arrives at a less precise concept based on overlapping similarities. One might go so far as to argue that Suits demonstrates a deductive approach to the topic of games whereas Wittgenstein’s approach is inductive.
Suits’ briefly defines ‘game’ as “a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” In other words, for Suits, anything with a definite goal that we freely choose to do, and have no other overriding reason to do, counts as a game. We will consider some practical questions that Suits’ definition raises:
- Is playing chess like playing the lottery? If so, how?
- Is mountain climbing merely a physical activity or is it a game? What’s the difference?
- Is the child’s game, Ring-around-the-Rosie, a game or a performance? Where is the dividing line?
- Could life itself be a game? Or would that result in a paradox?
- Why might it be important for us to be able to distinguish what is, and what is not, a game?
BIOGRAPHY OF CHRISTOPHER C. YORKE
Christopher C. Yorke is a PhD Candidate at the Open University’s Department of Philosophy.
The title of his dissertation, which will be submitted in September 2018, is “Bernard Suits’ Utopia of Gameplay: A Critical Analysis.” He has taught undergraduates full time at King Saud University and the American University in the Emirates, and has assisted part time at Dalhousie University, Concordia University, and the University of Glasgow. He has also supervised Philosophy Masters students at the Open University. He has given over 50 presentations of his academic work to various learned societies, including the Aristotelian Society/Mind Association, the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS) and the Canadian Philosophical Association. He is also the two year consecutive winner of IAPS’ 2016 and 2017 editions of the R. Scott Kretchmnar Student Essay Award.
Yorke’s recent publications include:
“Bernard Suits on Capacities: Games, Perfectionism, and Utopia.”
Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 45, No. 2, 2018 (forthcoming).
“Endless Summer: What Kinds of Games Will Suits’ Utopians Play?”
Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 213-238, 2017.
“Prospects for Utopia in Space”
Published in The Ethics of Space Exploration, James S.J. Schwartz and Tony Milligan eds., pp. 61-74, Springer International Publishing, 2016.
Many of his articles can be freely accessed online here: http://aue.academia.edu/ChristopherYorke
DATE: Wednesday, June 20, 2018
TIME: 6:15 PM.
PLACE: Thomas More Institute,
3405 Atwater Avenue
To reserve, please contact email@example.com
Optional donations at the door (receipts provided) aid the work of
The Thomas More Research Centre (TMRC)