PHIL 102 – Games and the Good Life
March 31 2014
• Nussbaum: Play: being able to laugh, to play, and to enjoy recreational activities
o One of the important capabilities
• The life of playing games is the best life to live
• We’re all playing games without knowing it – in some literal sense of “game”
o MostlyAmetaphor for describing parts of life (coercion, manipulating etc.)
Playing “little games”
o But suits talks about it in a literal sense
• Aresponse to the ant’s fable:
o Grasshopper was “hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content”
o Ant was stored up food for winter
o Grasshopper discovered in winter “it is best to prepare for the days of necessity”
• It’s best just to play – Suits argument
What is a Game?
• Ludwig Wittgenstein: there is nothing general you can say about games. But nothing that
all games share.
• Non-games: not playing the trombone because it’s not playing a game
Caillois: Les Jeux et Les Hommes (1958) – to play a games is to do an activity that is:
1. Free, not obligatory
2. Circumscribed within limits of space and time, fixed in advance
3. Uncertain, so that its course cannot be pre-determined and player initiative is required
4. Unproductive in that it creates no goods or wealth PHIL 102 – Games and the Good Life
5. Governed by rules that suspend ordinary laws and behaviours and that must be followed
6. Make-believe – involving a special awareness of a second reality or of a free unreality, as
against real life
Agood theory should be:
1. Extensionally adequate – it is true of all games and only games
2. Informative – of ourselves etc.
This theory of games does not undergird and grasshopper philosophy. Games have no make-
believe or often produce wealth
ATheory of Games : 1 pass
To play a game, is to seek/achieve a goal using inefficient means. Goal orientated.
o Golf – you need to use a club
o The point of considering counterexamples is to refine the theory or get a better
one and to achieve informativeness.
• In Poker, the goal is not to simply get the pot
o It’s to win the game = to get the pot by following the rules and in a certain way
o The rules and the goal are inseparable
o In poker you can use the most efficient means to achieve that goal.
ATheory of Games : 2 pass
• Game players have many kinds of goals: simple to more complicated
o To play the game
o To pass the time, get fit
o To win
o To achieve a situation that the rules identify as winning
• There are 2 kinds of means to achieve games’goals: unrestricted means vs means limited
by the rules of the game… lusory means and non-lusory means PHIL 102 – Games and the Good Life
o Having to do with games
o E.g. lusory means in poker = get 2 cards etc.
• There are 2 kinds of rules: rules of skill and strategy vs rules that must be followed to
play the game… or rules of strategy. Constitutive rules: rules that must be followed in
order for you to be playing the game. You must be following the rules to be part of the
Lusory Goals: a goal that can be achieved only by following the constitutive rules of the game
Prelusory Goals: a goal whose achievement is necessary to achieve the lusory goal but that can
be achieved without following the constitutive rules of the game.
• 100m dash: Prelusory Goal: pass over the finish line. Lusory Goal: following the rules to
achieve the prelusory goal.
First Pass: to play a game is to seek to achieve a goal using inefficient menas
Pass 1.5: to play a game is to voluntarily attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles
Secondary Pass: to play the game is:
1. To attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs [prelusory goal]
2. Using only means permitted by the rules [lusory means]
3. Where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means
4. Where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity [lusory
(1) – (3) say that there are unnecessary obstacles to achieving the prelusory goal – not the
(4) Describes the reason one has for using less efficient means: to be able to play the game.
Understanding the 2 pass
Do all games really have prelusory goals
o Prelusory goal: achievement is necessary to achieve the lusory goal but you don’t
have to follow the constitutive rules
• Chess cheats PHIL 102 – Games and the Good Life
o It’s impossible to cheat at chess without the rules of chess
• The institution of the game sets the prelusory goal of chess, which can be achieved
Do all games prescribe limited means to prelusory goals?
• Ivan andAbdul
• The mountain climber
o Means are limited in principle
They are only refinements of the theory. The means may be limited by principle.
April 2 2014
ATheory of Games: Second pass - to play a game is…
1. To attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs = prelusory goal
2. Using only means permitted by the rules = lusory goal
3. Where the rules prohibit more efficient in favour of less efficient means = constitutive
rules. Rules you must follow. Strategic rules – to win the game
4. And the rules are accepted just because they make playing the game possible = lusory
Luosry Goal: a goal that can be achieved only by following the constitutive rules of the game
Prelusory Goal: a goal whose achievement is necessary to achieve the lusory goal… but that
can be achieved without the following the consittuitve rules of the game
Perlusory goal: a goal achieved by playing the game. E.g. play games to pass time/to get fit
Grasshopper and Skepticus: do all games limit the means to prelusory goals?
• The mountain climber: it’s a game
• Prelusory goal: to get to the top of the mountain.
• It seems that you are using the most efficient means to climb up. But (2) and (3) is not
true. Thus it applies to only some games.
o Means are limited in principle and not the rules.
The mountain climber won’t take the monorail PHIL 102 – Games and the Good Life
Following the rules!
o This is connected to (4): we have a reason to accept the rules.
Games of Make-Believe
• Games of make-belie