Finite and Infinite Games


Finite and Infinite Games:

A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility

by James P. Carse (1986)

Many books can influence your thinking, but there are only a few that change the way you look at life. Finite and Infinite Games is one of those. The book works through its very openness while it simultaneously reveals the illusions that we call reality. It begins with “There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite.” And it ends by concluding that “There is but one infinite game.” It’s a convincing argument. Mind-blowing, in fact. Along the way, Carse shows how we veil ourselves to the reality of the games that we play with one another, some theatrical, some dramatic. He explains the difference between power and strength (one is finite, the other infinite — I’ll just let you guess which is which), as well as the difference between training and education. While thus teaching us proper terminology, Carse treats every topic with the reverence it so justly deserves. For instance, concerning sexuality he says, “Finite sexuality is a form of theater in which the distance between persons is regularly reduced to zero but in which neither touches the other.” By contrast, “Infinite sexuality does not focus its attention on certain parts or regions of the body. Infinite lovers have no ‘private parts,'” for “[i]t is not their bodies but their persons they make accessible to others.” Whoa… Once he’s won you over as an infinite lover, he lets us in on a little secret: “Myth provokes explanation but accepts none of it.” I should start each and every one of my literature classes by writing that on the board. It’s what culture is all about, folks. And once you’ve experienced the textual love of Finite and Infinite Games you’ll never see culture, life, yourself, or the games you play the same way again. 181 pages.


    1. There Are at Least Two Kinds of Games
    2. No One Can Play a Game Alone
    3. I Am the Genius of Myself
    4. A Finite Game Occurs Within a World
    5. Nature Is the Realm of the Unspeakable
    6. We Control Nature for Societal Reasons
    7. Myth Provokes Explanation but Accepts None of It


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