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Finite and Infinite Games [Mass Market Paperback]

James P. Carse
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Dec 1992
An extraordinary book that will dramatically change the way you experience life.
Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life, the games we play in business and politics, in the bedroom and on the battlefied -- games with winners and losers, a beginning and an end. Infinite games are more mysterious -- and ultimately more rewarding. They are unscripted and unpredictable; they are the source of true freedom.
In this elegant and compelling work, James Carse explores what these games mean, and what they can mean to you. He offers stunning new insights into the nature of property and power, of culture and community, of sexuality and self-discovery, opening the door to a world of infinite delight and possibility.
"An extraordinary little book . . . a wise and intimate companion, an elegant reminder of the real."
-- Brain/Mind Bulletin


Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc.; 1st Ballantine Books Ed edition (1 Dec 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345341848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345341846
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 10.6 x 17.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 534,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Judging by the diversity of reviews, people out there tend to be polarised by this book Finite and Infinite Games (FIG). After reading it, I can completely understand why.

Reasons to hate FIG:

Many of the points and especially the distinctions Carse makes seem to exist on a purely grammatical level. Never mind grammar; sometimes the typeface alone suffices for Carse to make bold with meaning (i.e. italics). "Whoever must play, cannot play."

Carse zooms off on many topical flights of fancy that seem more appropriate for New-Agey texts, such as sex, politics and environmentalism. This book takes 180 pages but the essence of it could have been squeezed into about 80. Maybe even a half dozen pages of diagrams or charts would have sufficed.

FIGs structure apparently apes a classic text by Ludwig Wittgenstein, the twentieth century's most significant philosopher. In his 'early' phase, Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in a numerically-structured fashion, reasoning from axiom to implications. It was one of the most significant works of the time. Carse seems to have Wittgenstein in mind as a model, as he mentions him overtly (p. 131) and contradicts him covertly (p. 108, "A world is not all that is the case..."). For any philosopher to compare himself to Wittgenstein in this way is an embarrassment, unless he has won the Nobel Prize or equivalent.

The style is dense and near aphoristic. That's fine if you are Nietzsche or Pascal and you make your meaning plainer elsewhere. But FIG is all we have to inform and guide us on Carse's thought. We need more; more context, more proof of assumptions, more definitions. None is forthcoming.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the select few. 17 July 2005
Format:Paperback
This book is one of those that polarises peoples opinions. Some find it amateur in content, boring or even pointless but then others like myself glean so much from it, and that depends on starting from the right point and following the progressive trail that the author takes us on. It can be very abstract at times and you may have expected some fun because it says "games" in the title, but here are some very good insights into the the inevitability of mankind playing itself through from start to finish. It's a tool, a lexicon and so remains a sort of kaleidoscopic reference point on life. I don't wish to discredit the authors effort in any way as I have gained far too much from it for me to merit an attack.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and challenging 25 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a remarkable book. I expect it will need several readings to get all the value from it. The central idea is quite simple. Everything in life is a game. There are games that have a winner and a loser and therefore an end, and games that you play in order to go on playing them.

He makes some compelling arguments that we need to become infinite game players.

His language is simple and elegant. The challenge of the book is the sheer number of ideas and the profound implications of the argument. It's hard work but worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A unique bit of philosophy 14 April 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are more than enough books out there on 'play', most of them peddling suspect fashionable vagaries about a concept which they choose not to define. In contrast, Carse knows exactly what he is talking about, and his application of play theory to the law, for example, is precise and incisive.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very stimulating must-read. 8 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Amazing. An incredibly thought-provoking book. I think it's going to take several readings to really grasp the depth of the ideas laid out here and I think that the effort will be well worthwhile.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING FOR THE PLANET 19 Sep 1997
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I spent the evening looking through my book collection to find my copy of Infinite and Finite Games. The ideas seem simple, but are complex. It is one of those book whose concepts stay in your mind long after you have finished reading the book. I remeber right after I finished the book for the first time, years ago, I went to a bio-diversity. I remember thinking that most of the species on the planet are playing an infinte game. That is they are playing in order to keep playing. We are the only species who plays the game soley to win. That is our tragic flaw. One species playing only to win can destroy life on an entire planet.
I hope we learn the most important thing is to learn to play infinite games--to learn to play in order to keep playing. If we don't learn this simple lesson, life here will, of course, not survive.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem 8 Jan 2004
Format:Hardcover
One of those books that says different things, different ways each time you pick it up. It may seem pretentious, this book, but it is like a Zen koan. Break through it and you can be in another dimension. Easy to see why he was chosen by his students as an outstanding prof.
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