Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why "Philosophy" of Games?

I already wrote an introduction for the blog, and I don't wish to be redundant in this post, but I realized I could have written more on why this blog is called The Philosophy of Games. 

Why not Advice for Gamers? or How to Game Master? 

Both of those will be covered in this blog, so they wouldn't be bad titles. 

But they don't fully capture what I'd like to be doing. 

I believe a body of knowledge, a subject matter, or something equivalent becomes philosophical when those studying or practicing in that field start asking self-aware questions. An example: In the field of biology, biologists classify various organisms into different categories of family, kingdom, et cetera. However, a biologists might ask, What do we mean by organism? or What do we mean by species? Does the world cleanly divide into organisms or do humans impose these categorizations onto the world? 

When questions like this arise biology turns into the philosophy of biology. We can say this about any of the sciences, mathematics, or even fields like art and literature. Nothing is safe from clever people asking meta-level questions about the field that they love. 

People don't need to be the specialist in a certain field to be philosophers of that field though. It certainly helps a great deal to have in-depth knowledge of subject matter, but someone can be a philosopher of science and not ever perform a scientific experiment. Many professional philosophers write and research about the various logical inferences that can be made from fields they themselves do not practice in. 

On a different note, the first definition of philosophy that I heard in my 101 class was the love of wisdom. Usually when someone asks me, "So what is philosophy anyway?" and I don't have enough time to explain asking self-aware questions in other fields I give the quick "love of wisdom" answer. It's a functional definition, but people often comment on how impractical learning an ancient study like philosophy is if I want to find work (they couldn't be more wrong). The love of wisdom still holds true for philosophers of this day. 

The philosophers I've had the pleasure to study under and argue with are people who clearly want to know the truth of things, the reasons behind all that we see (or don't see, in some cases), and are willing to follow anything to their logical conclusions or at least admit when something absurd is at the very least a logical possibility. 

Related to the love of wisdom, especially in ancient philosophers like Aristotle, is the offering of practical advice. As I said at the beginning of this post, that is also a goal of this blog, and also philosophical

I hope I've given a better understanding of what I mean when I say that this blog is about the philosophy of games. 

Post script: One of my friends was kind enough to pick up a copy of Things We Think About Games for me at gencon. I still have no idea of what any specific chapters are about, but you better believe I plan on writing about that book. I'll also post a review of Don't Rest Your Head soon, since it's lesser known than games like Dungeons and Dragons, but deserves a great deal of attention. 

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