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Monday, 28 March 2011

The Work of Play

Play is becoming an overused phrase in philosophy and, indeed, throughout the humanities. Its latent ambiguity allows it to be 'put to use' in a variety of explanatory mediums. For example; it is taken as the main goal of the philosopher Wittgenstein, as the aim of modernist art, as an explanation that mediates between subjectivity and objectivity, and so forth. Now, while I might not object to the outcomes of play used in each of these areas, I do find it more than a little disconcerting that play can be such a conceptual multi-tool. Indeed, that it can apparently carry such a heavy weight of theoretical responsibility seems in opposition to the constitutional description of play as a concept.

One should always pay attention to the descriptive language one uses especially when a particular phrase seems to be an especially handy 'catch-all'. Perhaps the worry isn't there and we are really talking about play simply as an analogy for a better description which does not yet exist, i.e. it's the best word we currently have for capturing a certain dispositional feel that is trying to be (indirectly) communicated.

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