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“There are at least two kinds of games,” states James Carse as he begins this extraordinary book. “One could be called finite; the other infinite.”

Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life; they are played in order to be won, which is when they end. But infinite games are more mysterious. Their object is not winning, but ensuring the continuation of play. The rules may change, the boundaries may change, even the participants may change—as long as the game is never allowed to come to an end.

What are infinite games? How do they affect the ways we play our finite games? What are we doing when we play—finitely or infinitely? And how can infinite games affect the ways in which we live our lives?

Carse explores these questions with stunning elegance, teasing out of his distinctions a universe of observation and insight, noting where and why and how we play, finitely and infinitely. He surveys our world—from the finite games of the playing field and playing board to the infinite games found in culture and religion—leaving all we think we know illuminated and transformed. Along the way, Carse finds new ways of understanding everything from how an actress portrays a role, to how we engage in sex, from the nature of evil, to the nature of science. Finite games, he shows, may offer wealth and status, power and glory. But infinite games offer something far more subtle and far grander.

Carse has written a book rich in insight and aphorism. Already an international literary event, Finite and Infinite Games is certain to be argued about and celebrated for years to come. Reading it is the first step in learning to play the infinite game.
Published: Free Press on Oct 11, 2011
ISBN: 9781451657296
List price: $10.99
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Carse has a bias, does use loaded words. Then, there is his concept of being able to walk off the playing field rather than engaging in a "game." Each person can get conscious of whether the relationship is finite or infinite, whether there are winners and losers, or only winners. Consciousness and choise make the difference.read more
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I dunno, man. Lots of "It is not the case that x is y; rather, y creates the preconditions for x." I keep thinking this kind of book will have game theory in it.read more
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I actually think I bought this book when it first came out when I was around 14. When I first read it thru gulping it like water I thought to myself this is so obvious, this is how I think. Typical teenage know it all response. But after a couple of months I realized it had changed the way I thought and interacted with people. Truly life changing for me at 14.read more
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Carse has a bias, does use loaded words. Then, there is his concept of being able to walk off the playing field rather than engaging in a "game." Each person can get conscious of whether the relationship is finite or infinite, whether there are winners and losers, or only winners. Consciousness and choise make the difference.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I dunno, man. Lots of "It is not the case that x is y; rather, y creates the preconditions for x." I keep thinking this kind of book will have game theory in it.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I actually think I bought this book when it first came out when I was around 14. When I first read it thru gulping it like water I thought to myself this is so obvious, this is how I think. Typical teenage know it all response. But after a couple of months I realized it had changed the way I thought and interacted with people. Truly life changing for me at 14.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
connects the dots in life to an extraordinary extent. gets a little weaker towards the end though. nevertheless, a work which repays quite a few careful re-reads.
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One of slim, weirdly abstract books which can provide one of those weirdly elusive "A-ha! So /that's/ what's been going on!" moments. It can in that sense elucidate a model. Then again, the MBTI, Enneagram, or for matter the Kaballah or the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church might be what maps your reality/floats your boat/rocks your world. YMMV.
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This book was like being cornered by that annoying, extremely arrogant philosophy major slash persistent pothead we all knew in college that would corner people at parties and drone on and on about how there's all sorts of levels to, like, humanity and stuff, and how, like, we just, like, don't even, like, realize, man; and, that he has it figured out and he is better than the lot of us for it.

Carse builds his life philosophy on a foundation of redefined, loaded words that describe a black and white world masquerading as a world in shades of grey; and, he uses his loaded words to clearly describe himself as infinite (superior) and others as finite (inferior). He speaks of the overlap (a finite game can be played within an infinite one); but, he describes the two in opposite terms (according to what he has decided these words mean). The words that he chooses to redefine are words that already have definition and connotation in our world. Instead of finding a word that better describes his philosophy in a neutral manner or, better yet, coining a phrase with no connotation based on his concepts and a logical etymology, he chooses words that do not entirely describe what he is describing so that he can imply a value to it.

Infinite vs. finite is a clear example of his use of loaded words. Who among us would choose finite over infinite? None. Of course, that example might just be too obvious. I can hear people thinking, "that’s the point." There are other examples, such as machine vs. garden, resonance vs. amplification, etc. These are loaded phrases that he uses to show the superiority of his world view. They are phrases that he, then, ties himself to specifically, and then fills in behind with his beliefs. It leads us to, not only, see his argument as obviously superior (of course infinite is better than finite...), then, also, leads us to see him as superior (someone who has chosen infinite over finite is better than those that choose otherwise...); but, it also leads us to either ignore or elevate dubious arguments that fall in behind it. For those that would say that Carse doesn't apply the infinite to himself specifically, re-read it and note that he will refer to "finite players" and "finite games"; but, then, he often says "when I am playing in an infinite game..." or "as an infinite player I do this...", not to mention the whole "I am a genius" section.

Once we have accepted his superiority, we are not skeptical of what he says behind it. His view has a fundamental lack of practicality to it, a distinct naïveté and, in at least one case, makes excuse for malice. Finite games, in his implication, could and should be entirely eliminated. With finite games eliminated, we would live in peace, fostering culture and creation, expecting the unexpected and fostering the perpetuation of surprise, and everyone would help all in a world of total harmony with each other and nature. This world view ignores fundamentals of human nature, and of the human psyche. It is a view that assumes that all are capable of this transcendence and that transcendence will always take this form.

There was, a point at which I found him throwing a malicious act into a list of "infinite" acts of play: adultery. One might call me a fuddy-duddy; but, while I understand that we are better off than the days when adultery was criminal and stoneable sin, I also understand that adultery is a negligent (at its very best) or malicious (often and at its worst) act that should not be added to a list of benign sexual terms such as celibacy and homosexuality. He says you cannot call an infinite player adulterous because it is a concept that requires boundaries; but, infinite players are not concerned with boundaries. If his world view allows for, what I would consider, a malicious act, then what other ideals does this world view hide that is unspoken? Is there no value to maintaining, at least, some order over anarchy?

In that lies a great deal of his naïveté. Again, like the jerk we all knew in college, he banters about all the "freedoms" that we would have with transcendence, but ignores the effect on others. Others, thus, are either obliged to come to the same transcendence, or, they must (therefore: deserve to) suffer the acts of the enlightened. In a sense, this is the urban-spiritualist version of Stalin's Soviet Union: "Be enlightened, or get out of the way." Of course, this book is packaged nicer than a Siberian gulag, so we don't fear it.

I made a promise to myself a few years ago that I would finish the books that I started to read. I used to read a few chapters and then drop them. I wanted to see things through. Within those few years, I have read some really, really horrible stuff: stuff that no one should ever read. I persevered, though, and had no regrets. I was following through.

After reading this book, I have concluded that my promise was the promise of a fool. I would not wish this book on my worst enemy. It is some of the worst hippie, urban-spiritualist, arrogant, catch-phrasey, pop philosophy bull$#!+ that I have ever read in my life. I should have known that it was going to be a horrible book when I saw that an “in praise of” quote on the back was written by Robert Pirsig. If a book ever corners me and talks my ear off like this again, I will have the infinite wisdom to put it the hell down.
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