Thursday, September 22, 2005
Let me briefly mention an obvious objection to this way of carving things up. The Grasshopper's dream collapsed every human activity, and especially activities generally considered to be work, into instances of playing games. If we're going to accept the possibility of this hypothesis, then it seems very odd to understand playing games as being the subset of a type of activity that is opposed to work.
The answer to this dilemma, of course, is that the Grasshopper means to be a radical skeptic about the possibility of there being any activities that fit into the category of work. That category, it seems, would be filled out by activities which are valued instrumentally, whereas play consists of activities that are valued for their own sake. So one part of the Grasshopper's thesis is that every activity that is valued is valued for its own sake. Another part of the thesis is that those cases in which we commonly make the mistake of thinking that an activity is instrumentally valuable are cases of game playing, which is to say that they are cases of rule governed activities which are valued for their own sake.
Lurking slightly below the surface of this is the thought that the perception of instrumental value is a byproduct of game playing. To see something as instrumentally valuable, the thought goes, is to see it as contributing to the accomplishment of some goal. But for an activity to have a goal requires that the activity be, in at least some minimal sense, rule-governed. And then it is a game.