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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Undergraduate Course: Philosophy: Fun and Games (PHIL10143)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn this course we investigate the very concept of a game and the way in which games figure in the good life. The primary text will be Bernard Suits¿ underappreciated masterpiece, The Grasshopper. Written in the style of a Socratic dialogue, The Grasshopper attempts to turn the classic Aesop¿s Fable of the ant and the grasshopper on its head. The dialogue opens with the Death of the Grasshopper, in which The Grasshopper is surrounded by his followers and explains why his ideas are worth dying for, and why the life of the ant is so deeply misguided ¿ even paradoxical. The analogy with Plato¿s The Crito is unmistakable, and very well done. Indeed, The Grasshopper is a masterpiece not only in terms of its philosophical content, but in terms of its literary style. The opening chapter provocatively conveys the idea that playing games holds the key to a meaningful life.

Suits engages directly with Wittgenstein¿s thesis that ¿game¿ cannot be defined. Wittgenstein admonishes us not to just assume there must be some definition in the offing but to look and see. Suits takes him at his word, and looks much more carefully than Wittgenstein himself seems to have. He carefully develops and defends his definition against a battery of objections from his interlocutors and then explains why the life of the Grasshopper, which consists in playing games rather than working, is superior to the life of the ant. The dialogue concludes with some discussion of Utopia, in which the Grasshopper argues that the playing of games is a kind of master value for human beings which would play a central structuring role in Utopia. Along the way, we consider an earlier essay by Suits in which he argues provocatively that life itself can usefully be understood as a kind of game.

In addition to the central core of the course built around Suits¿ masterful work, we will also consider some of the more interesting uses to which the concept of a game, and the closely associated concept of a constitutive rule, in other areas of philosophy. Here we shall focus mainly on two areas: moral philosophy and the philosophy of language. In the former case, we consider the Kantian idea that the rules of morality are constitutive of rational agency in the same ways that the rules of a game (like chess) can be constitutive of playing the game. This, in turn, leads naturally into a discussion as to whether morality is well understood in terms of rules or principles at all. In the latter case, we examine the metaphor of a ¿language game,¿ compare this evocative metaphor with Mark Lance¿s metaphor of language as sport. We also consider the ways in which the concept of a ¿language game¿ can usefully structure a debate in applied ethics, feminist theory and political philosophy ¿ namely, the debate over whether some forms of pornography subordinate women.
Course description In this course we investigate the very concept of a game, the relationship between that concept and the concept of play, the way games figure in the good life and the normative role of games and play in Utopia. We also discuss some of the more interesting uses to which the concept of a game, and the closely associated concept of a constitutive rule, have been put in other areas of philosophy - e.g. moral theory and the philosophy of language. The aim is to bring insights from the philosophy of games proper to bear on the use philosophers working in other areas have made of the concept of a game.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Mind, Matter and Language (PHIL08014) AND Knowledge and Reality (PHIL08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students studying on MA Cognitive Science (Humanities) are permitted to take this course without having met the pre-requisites of Mind, Matter and Language and Knowledge and Reality. However, it is advisable that students discuss the suitability of the course with their PT and the course organiser before enrolling.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. Mid-term essay of 1,500 words (40%)
2. End-of-semester essay of 2,000 words (60%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
- Further development of core analytic skills in philosophy ¿ interpreting a text, reconstructing and evaluating arguments, articulating theories, etc.
- A basic understanding of why games matter to philosophy
- An understanding of how one might most plausibly try to define ¿game¿ and why some have thought a reductive definition is impossible
- An understanding of why one might take the playing of games to be an essential part of a meaningful human life
- An understanding of the role of the idea of a ¿language game¿ in the philosophy of language and in feminist theory
- An understanding of the role that ¿constitutive rules¿ play in games, and why such rules might provide a useful model for moral theory
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Michael Ridge
Tel: (0131 6)50 3657
Course secretaryMiss Ann-Marie Cowe
Tel: (0131 6)50 3961
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