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Suits on the Lusory Attitude

Posted in Friendly Philosophy

From The Grasshopper (3rd ed.), pp. 41-43

But games are, I believe, essentially different from the ordinary activities of life, as perhaps the following exchange between Smith and Jones will illustrate. Smith knows nothing of games, but he does know that he wants to travel from A to C, and he also knows that making the trip by way of B is the most efficient means for getting to his destination. He is then told authoritatively that he may not go by way of B. ‘Why not?’ he asks. ‘Are there dragons at B?’ ‘No,’ is the reply. ‘B is perfectly safe in every respect. It is just that there is a rule against going to B if you are on your way to C.’ ‘Very well,’ grumbles Smith, ‘if you insist. But if I have to go from A to C very often I shall certainly try very hard to get that rule revoked.’ True to his word, Smith approaches Jones, who is also setting out for C from A. He asks Jones to sign a petition requesting the revocation of the rule which forbids travellers from A to C to go through B. Jones replies that he is very much opposed to revoking the rule, which very much puzzles Smith.

SMITH: But if you want to get to C, why on earth do you support a rule which prevents your taking the fastest and most convenient route?

JONES: Ah, but you see I have no particular interest in being at C. That is not my goal, except in a subordinate way. My overriding goal is more complex. It is ‘to get from A to C without going through B.’ And I can’t very well achieve that goal if I go through B, can I?

S: But why do you want to do that?

J: I want to do it before Robinson does, you see?

S: No, I don’t. That explains nothing. Why should Robinson, whoever he may be, want to do it? I presume you will tell me that he, like you, has only a subordinate interest in being at C at all.

J: That is so.

S: Well, if neither of you really wants to be at C, then what possible difference can it make which of you gets there first? And why, for God’s sake, should you avoid B?

J: Let me ask you a question. Why do you want to get to C?

S: Because there is a good concert at C, and I want to hear it.

J: Why?

S: Because I like concerts, of course. Isn’t that a good reason?

J: It’s one of the best there is. And I like, among other things, trying to get from A to C without going through B before Robinson does.

S: Well, I don’t. So why should they tell me I can’t go through B?

J: Oh, I see. They must have thought you were in the race.

S: The what?

I believe that we are now in a position to define lusory attitude: the acceptance of constitutive rules just so the activity made possible by such acceptance can occur.

Bernard Suits, The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia, 3rd edition (Broadview Press, 2014)

One Comment

  1. Vicki Tillman
    Vicki Tillman

    That’s the first time I understood the concept of lusory rules.

    June 8, 2024

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