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New Philosopher Issue 20




Issue #20: Play 

In this issue: At its best, play provides a spark in life, releasing us from the burden of playing ourselves. At its worst, play becomes a game to win at all costs: think Lance Armstrong’s doping or the Australian cricket team’s ball tampering.

For better or for worse, play reveals us – to ourselves and to others. Canadian philosopher Bernard Suits, in his playful book Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia, in which a Socratic grasshopper seeks to prove the value of play, wrote that a game is “the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”.

But why would we set unnecessary obstacles to overcome? Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play, argues that we do so because play is “the vital essence of life” and “the basis of what we think of as civilisation”. Suits’s grasshopper is no less effusive, arguing that game-playing is the supreme intrinsic good; that in utopia the central activity would be to play games.

Whether it’s the main game or just a sideshow, it’s hard to deny the importance of play. Whatever the case, it couldn’t hurt to take the grasshopper’s advice and, every now and then, just go outside and play.


New Philosopher is an independent publication devoted to exploring philosophical ideas from past and present thinkers on ways to live a more fulfilling life. Commentary on New Philosopher aims to guide readers into living a happier and freer mode of existence.

Seneca, speaking on the shortness of life says: “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realise that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.”

“Life is long if you know how to use it.”

New Philosopher caters to those who have not studied philosophy, as well as philosophy students and academics. Our aim is to introduce philosophical ideas that challenge contemporary thought and conditioning. Are our thoughts and aspirations truly ours?

We will bring you some of the world’s leading minds on perspectives rarely heard – covering the technological society, consumerism, happiness, the war on your mind, an extraordinary life, and ideas to change your life.