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About the Author

James P. Carse is Professor Emeritus of history and literature of religion at New York University. A winner of the university's Great Teacher Award, he is author of The Religious Case Against Belief (2008) and Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience (1994). Carse lives in New show more York City and Massachusetts. show less

Includes the names: James Carse, Jsms P.Csrs

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Common Knowledge




If there is one thing to take from this article, please make it this: read James P. Carse’s magnificently aphoristic Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility and at all costs go out of your way to avoid Simon Sinek’s thoroughly wretched adaptation, The Infinite Game.
JollyContrarian | 26 other reviews | Dec 2, 2023 |
An extremely abstract, existential modernist philosophical text providing some broadly applicable ontological categories for human activity. It's certainly a way to think about the world and your place in it. There are a lot of "weird" assertions in here, and certainly some uncomfortable and questionable ones.
quavmo | 26 other reviews | Oct 26, 2023 |
This is an interesting book for quite a few reasons.

First off, it presents a couple of redefinitions of commonly used (or, as argued, misused) terms, namely 'religion' and 'belief'. As defined here, most of e.g. America is not religious, but merely --and Carse means *merely*-- partisans of any number of beliefs. What is religion? Well... it is a long-lived and living set of... traditions and thoughts (almost said 'beliefs') embodied in a communitas (community, but without the baggage of ethnicity, political unity, geographical continuity, etc.) There is a lot here, and I'm doing the barest of bare jobs of describing it.

This leads to (for me) the second most interesting move here: people who blame religion for crimes, social ills, suffering, close mindedness, etc. are actually angry/etc. with 'belief'. This is is in several ways clever, one such way being that the most strident e.g. New Atheists are themselves partisans, themselves *merely* 'believers.'

Lest you think 'religion' is reserved only for some ineffable thing that no one actually experiences... well, this might be the biggest weakness here. It sort of is. I'm not convinced that Carse hasn't excluded 99% of the professed religious. While the poor, struggling, 'believing' mother of 4 is not guilty of the crimes of 'belief', she certainly doesn't partake in the 'higher ignorance' that defines 'religion' here. So the mass of the worlds 'religious' (including the purposefully sympathetic example I just gave) are mere believers; by defining away the 'problems of religion' (seemingly as much due to e.g. disgust at creationists' hijinks as due to e.g. the misplaced critiques of 'New Atheists') Carse seems to have reduced the population of communitas to academics, theologians, artists, and philosophers.

But I'm giving 5 stars. Because this is not a "religion is poison," or "religion is great," or even "religion has problems, but look at how it has contributed to culture" argument. This is the first serious 'new' take I've see on the place of, reason for, and meaning of religion in... a long time.

And I like new ideas. "My horizon has been moved." :)
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dcunning11235 | 7 other reviews | Aug 12, 2023 |
This was definitely a worthwhile read. In fact, I should read a second time before reviewing.

That said, I found the opening premise quite interesting, and some of the expansion on it quite worthwhile. But... frankly, I did not follow everything here. I think part of it is that I'm not sure I agree with all of it.

I don't know that infinite players are actually 'better', and that is clearly the judgement expressed. A sincere religious fundamentalist seems an infinite player; so does a sincere terrorist. Though Carse clearly would not agree, I think a 'true believe' in almost any thing would fit... even though embracers of ideology are called out here.

Yeah... disagree on points AND need to reread.
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dcunning11235 | 26 other reviews | Aug 12, 2023 |

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