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The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia
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The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  159 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 179 pages
Published November 9th 2005 by Broadview Press Inc (first published 1978)
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Mar 09, 2016 Burak rated it it was amazing
Great, great little book this is.

First, I love the Socratic dialogue as a tool for opening and widening ideas. It is not only great as a method of presentation, I find, but as a method of doing "philosophy" in general, and not only for Socrates and Plato, but even for humble beings like myself. I find that this is a really great tool for me to test one's own convictions. In the absence of people to converse and challenge me, I often find myself in an internal, imagined dialogue: Without answeri
Apr 28, 2015 Julius rated it it was ok
In one of the appendices, Suits quotes a line from a review of his book in The Ottawa citizen that he claims 'set my teeth on edge': "a pleasing, unusual book with an odd texture--something like a sandwich of gravel and jam." Oddly enough, I think this criticism more or less hits the mark. The jam is the overly jokey/corny structure, the gravel is the indigestible and didactic logic embedded throughout. Maybe less like a gravel and jam sandwich and more like a box of Monty Python chocolates:

Oct 25, 2007 justin rated it it was amazing
The original publication is an especially beautiful book, with a striking illustration by Frank Newfeld at the outset of each chapter. I haven't come across the new printing, but it would be a real shame if the illustrations were missing.

The book is a dialogue on the meaning of games and the potential for play to stand as the basis for a valid and principled ethos. The discussion is between a kind of guru of leisure, based cleverly on the character of the profligate grasshopper from Aesop's fabl
Anthony Buckley
Jan 01, 2009 Anthony Buckley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Wittgenstein's idea that there is no single feature shared by all (or even most) of the objects we call "games" is very disturbing. Worse, he said we could understand any specific meaning of the word "game" only within a particular "game". This intentionally confusing idea is here challenged by Bernard Suits in a deceptively intelligent, witty, even revolutionary book.
Oct 16, 2013 M K rated it liked it
This book is simultaneously strange and very engaging. An interesting insight into game theory and the definition of a game. The premiss is quite unique.

Suits definition of a game is helpful in game studies. His focus in this book was to define a game and then use a series of 'but what about' or 'what if' scenarios to strengthen his initial definition. The unexpected and most curious part of this book is the entire text is a conversation between two ants and a dying grasshopper. Once you recove
Jul 09, 2013 Shawn rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, sports
"The Grasshopper" is unique philosophy monograph. It is part narrative, part dialogue, part treatise. It is also humorous and easy to read. It, quite self-consciously, plays off elements from Socratic dialogues, the New Testament, and Aesop’s fables. Though I don’t agree with many of its philosophic conclusions, the work, overall, is successful at pulling all these elements off. That is, I enjoyed reading it and found it enlightening.

The main focus of the book is an extended discussion of the d
James Klagge
Jul 31, 2013 James Klagge rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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 ...more
Jeremy Hornik
Sep 21, 2011 Jeremy Hornik rated it really liked it
Shelves: games
A playful and intellectually precise attempt to define games. The book is written as a series of dialogues between the Grasshopper (the foe of the Ant from the old fable) and his students, Skepticus and Prudence. It's quite funny. The dialogue has a great deal of wit, and the examples he draws to support his points are frequently hilarious. (For example, he imagines Sir Edmund Hilary, having climbed Everest, meeting a man in a bowler with a copy of the Times who has just taken the escalator up ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
This was a remarkably and unexpectedly insightful book on game theory. I was researching for my thesis, and came across a reference quoting Suits' definition of games. I thought the definition was remarkably profound, and wanted to use it for my paper. Since I prefer to read the original source myself, I picked up the book and was pleasantly surprised to find a philosophical treatise on the nature of games as told through the mouth of Aesop's grasshopper.

My thesis is on sports, and in this book
Jan 16, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: someday-library
Really enjoyable exploration of a definition of games, written in fine philosophical style, with poise and wit and colorfully imagined anecdotes. Sir Edmund Hillary arrives at the top of Everest, triumphant and more dead than alive, to find a man who, with a copy of the morning paper under his elbow, has taken the elevator up the other side; avid chess players receive boxes and boxes of captured chess pieces in the mail; two retired generals hold a companionable gaming feud, with net-piercing ...more
This is a notable contribution to the literature on games, and should be read if that is something that you are into. I wouldn't highly recommend it as a reading experience: perhaps some people enjoy the refashioning of thought experiments as full-fledged fictional narratives, but I'm not one of them. The "clever" form does make what would otherwise be a dry exploration more readable, but it caused me a significant degree of irritation as well. Suits provides a definition of games, which will ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Michael rated it it was ok
Shelves: thought-religion
Meh. I guess this compares well to other works of philosophy because the parody of Socrates is mildly entertaining, but most of it is semantics and definitions. Worse, I doubt those definitions are correct or of practical use. Far better are books like Stuart Brown's Play or Joseph Meeker's Comedy of Survival. The thoughts on utopia redeem this slightly: what would humans do when work is no longer necessary for survival? Games must be part of the meaning of life.
Jan 07, 2013 Joy rated it it was amazing
I am going to have to get my own copy of this, I feel like I need to read it three or four more times to really get my mind around all of what is going on here. It reminds me of _Godel, Escher, Bach_, and like that book is both quite straightforward and deeply profound. I like books that make my mind feel stretched and exercised.
Chris Hineman
Oct 29, 2015 Chris Hineman rated it really liked it
Good philosophical read about games and how it relates to society.
I read this for a philosophy of sport and recreation course.
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