Faites Vos Jeux

Thinking in and through a group…

Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.177: releasing the hares


Interesting how the releasing hares question harbours another: to hunt or not to hunt. The question morphs into one of chasing.

You cast the problem as one about the maturity of the discipline:

Consider, for example, literary studies, mathematics, the creative arts, engineering and digital humanities. Would it be the case that the more mature (or conservative?) the area of questioning, the more directed to successful application, proof or result and the more vulnerable to fraud the less releasing hares willy-nilly would be regarded as wise?

Susan Ford casts it as the robustness of the community of practice:

When you start a hare you don’t know whether it’s catchable – but others on the list might. That is the point of the list (and the hare).

Would this discussion benefit from considering the distinction between “game” and “play”?

It just so happens that a fellow reader of Humanist, Dr. Herbert Wender, alerted me (in another context) to the reception of Umberto Eco’s forward to the 1973 Italian edition of Homo Ludens. He pointed out a passage from Léon Hanssen “Games of Late Modernity: Discussing Huizinga’s Legacy” in Halina Mielicka-Pawłowska (editor) Contemporary Homo Ludens:

Umberto Eco, another important critic of Huizinga’s thesis, elaborated his view in a forward to the 1973 Italian edition of Homo Ludens, a very intriguing text that, however, has not received any attention in the Huizinga literature for a long time. According to Eco, Huizinga was unable to distinguish between game and play, because the Dutch language has just one word for both: “een spel spelen,” whereas the English say “let’s play a game.” A game consists of a matrix of combinations and is constituted by a certain amount of rules. Basically, it offers the players a number of options to act, so the eventually one player can win the game. A play, on the other hand, is the role one plays to express the situation at a certain stage of the match. Huizinga showed interest only in the performance, as linguists say, and not in the competence, that is, the game as regulating system, in which a certain matrix of combinations is produced. According to Eco, the crux of the matter is the fact that for Huizinga the element of “play” remained, in the final analysis, an “aesthetic” category. From his aestheticizing perspective, Huizinga was unable to admit that the “decay,” the wars and the “crisis,” were, in fact, also moments of play in a played culture.

As members of a given community of practice, the sport of hare coursing may not be the (language) game we wish to play. As adherents to a discipline, the release may be the play we wish to make in a (Glass Bead) game.

And thanks to Humanist and its readers, one can allude to both Wittgenstein and Hesse in one paragraph. And digress down the rabbit hole and out the looking glass.

Francois Lachance

Captivated by capture.

And so for day 2316

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