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It is ancient wisdom, but it is also a little cheap, to call all human activity "play". Those who are willing to content themselves with a metaphysical conclusion of this kind should not read this book. Nevertheless, we find no reason to abandon the notion of play as a distinct and highly important factor in the world's life and doings. For many years the conviction has grown upon me that civilization arises and unfolds in and as play.

Traces of such an opinion are to be found in my writings ever since Each time my hosts wanted to correct it to "in" Culture, and each time I protested and clung to the genitive, because it was not my object to define the place of play among all the other manifestations of culture, but rather to ascertain how far culture itself bears the character of play.


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  4. The aim of the present full-length study is to try to integrate the concept of play into that of culture. Consequently, play is to be understood here not as a biological phenomenon but as a cultural phenomenon.

    Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture

    It is approached historically, not scientifically. In this sense, religion and ritual graft onto play, changing the names and terms while the act itself still remains a competitive representation An example would be the potlatch practice from the Kwakiutl tribe in British Columbia. The tribe is split into two groups, and they compete to see who can give the best gifts to the other. You can have a potlatch for anything: a funeral, an initiation ceremony, a new house, etc.

    The competition is to show how much of your own food and possessions that you can surrender and still get by Religious salvation, acts of purification, baptism, or other spiritual cleansings are defined in this perspective as badges of honor that can be held out to the community. Like the athlete winning a victory for the fans, the play element acts as the foundation for more complex cultural exchanges.

    Huizinga is quick to note that people have always referred to war as a game. What is important for him is noting when war ceases to be play. We can call it the most intense, the most energetic form of play and at the same time the most palpable and primitive…. Once you stop acknowledging the humanity of your opponents, it has ceased to be a game and becomes barbarism. He finds war to otherwise be very similar to play. Nations at peace are still engaged in a game, competing through treaties and constant negotiations With their intrinsic connection to language, philosophy and poetry take on a generative function.

    Language and writing typically wear down the meaning of words and symbols into nothing through constant use. Poetry and play counter these more basic forms of communication by constantly infusing new meanings into familiar concepts. Philosophy began as a riddle game, which then melded with the ritual and festival. It slowly connects with higher play as it begins to study the nature of truth while simultaneously developing at a lower level as intellectualism and sophistical quackery.

    Problems with philosophy begin to develop when a culture fails to distinguish between play and knowledge, like the Stoics thinking a word pun or grammatical pitfall is actually an intellectual dilemma This continued de-evolution in the education process persisted as education turned into very rule based exchanges.

    You had to cite previous philosophers or be rejected outright. Education suffered because the competitive element began to oust the generative function of play Huizinga claims that physical and solid arts are not play. They are meant instead to help facilitate play or serve a representational function. The agonist impulse continues and drives art because of the desire to perform difficult, if not impossible, artistic feats is always there to motivate a person.

    Yet the object by itself is not play The final chapters of the book concern the slow dissolution of play starting around the 18th Century and continuing until , when Huizinga was writing the book.

    Homo Ludens the Study of the Play Element in Culture - AbeBooks

    Huizinga outlines how play has come to be cluttered with seriousness, rank, nationalism, pomp, and other technicalities to such an extent that it has ceased to be play. As noted above, once strict forms or order are applied to play it only becomes an imitation. It is just imitating play to gain support for destructive purposes.

    It has ceased to be a culture creating activity because of its rigid rules Financial games like gambling or bridge are mostly sterile activities.