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FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES by James P. Carse

FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES

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Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

Thickly braided aphoristic observations On life, culture, society by a professor of religion. Carse divides human activities into two kinds of ""games"": finite games, which have codified rules, winners and losers, beginnings and endings--chess, politics, war are examples; and infinite games--language, religion, culture--in which the point of the game is to sustain the game forever, by changing the rules when necessary. Finite games offer momentary rewards, but infinite games lead to wisdom and self-renewal. From this basic template, Carse shapes ponderous oracular comments on everything from acting to dying. For every (not too original) insight worth remembering (""The contradiction inherent in all evil is that it originates in the desire to eliminate evil""), there's a pair of others too familiar (""Poets cannot kill; they die. Metaphysics cannot die; it kills"") or awkward (""For the infinite player, seeing as genius, nature is the absolutely unlike"") to hold our attention. In many ways, this resembles a book from the late 60's, when aphoristic wisdom held sway. In the 80's, Carse's choppy profundity sounds like a misfire. Publishing, alas, remains a finite game.