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The Grasshopper in Suits (11)

Posted in Friendly Philosophy

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash


Chapter 8 is delightfully to-the-point. In it, Skepticus offers a single-player game as a counterexample to the Grasshopper’s definition — the game of mountain climbing. Specifically, he appeals to Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing Mt. Everest (p. 84).

Now, if you are like me, you do not normally consider slow treks up the side of snowy mountains to be a game. But I have no problem thinking of what we (Americans at least) call “rock climbing” as a game. And I have no problem seeing mountain climbing as just a slower, snowier version of rock climbing. So, I’m willing — as is the Grasshopper (p. 84) — to take “climbing Mt. Everest” as a game.

So, Skepticus makes the following claim: when Sir Edmund was preparing to climb Mt. Everest, he no doubt picked the best tools for the job. He wouldn’t have followed an arbitrary rule that denied him the use of more efficient equipment. So, if his climbing Mt. Everest were a game, and it didn’t involve following rules that forced him to avoid more efficient means of getting to the top of the mountain, then the Grasshopper’s definition of games is incorrect (p. 84).

As the Grasshopper himself phrases the objection: A mountain climber like Sir Edmund doesn’t choose between various rules about how to achieve some goal, looking to avoid rules that make it too easy; instead, a mountain climber chooses between goals based on which of them require means that are already challenging (p. 85).


The Grasshopper’s response asks us what would have happened had Sir Edmund found that there was an escalator to the top of the mountain he wanted to climb (pp. 84-85). He would choose a different, not-yet-conquered mountain (p. 85), the Grasshopper contends.

And what if he found that you could take a helicopter to the top of his newly-chosen mountain? He would seek a third, yet more formidable mountain (p. 85).

The point, the Grasshopper says, is that a mountain climber looking for a good challenge will choose between the available mountains based on which will require the right sort of effort. The “set of rules” for climbing (or the means of getting to the top of) each mountain will be compared, and the mountain climber will reject the mountains — and with them will reject the “rules” (the means) for ascending to the top of those mountains (p. 86).

So, in choosing between different goals (seeking one that will provide a satisfying challenge because of the rules associated therewith), a mountain climber is choosing between rules. The mountain climber is rejecting rules that are too lenient, that allow too much efficiency (p. 86).

Even in cases where there aren’t multiple mountains available, furthermore, the Grasshopper says it is telling that a mountain climber wouldn’t accept a lift to the top even if it were offered. What the climber wants is not just to be at the top of the mountain, but to get to the top by way of climbing (pp. 86-87).

Next Time

That brief discussion completed, we move on to chapter 9, where Skepticus will try to show the Grasshopper that his definition of games can’t handle make-believe.

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