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Filmed on Friday January 14, 02005

James Carse

Religious War In Light of the Infinite Game

"Religious War in Light of the Infinite Game" is the subject of the next Seminar About Long-term Thinking lecture, given by James P. Carse. Carse is the author of the celebrated tiny book, Finite and Infinite Games.

Finite and infinite games

Countless readers have been hooked by the opening line of James P. Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games — “There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other, infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” Readers become rereaders; the tiny book rewards close study. I used Carse’s ideas for the concluding chapter of my own book on long-term thinking.

Meanwhile we seem to be flirting these days with the prospect of a global religious war.

“War is the ultimate finite game. Religion is the ultimate infinite game,” said Jim Carse last night. “Evil does exist: it is when an infinite game is absorbed utterly in a finite game. All evil is an attempt to eliminate evil.”

Carse’s talk, “Religion War in Light of the Infinite Game,” drew on the work he’s doing toward a new book, to be titled Higher Ignorance: The Religious Case Against Belief.

Belief, he said, assumes that nothing can happen later to change your belief. It is the opposite of the long now. It is a right-now that never changes. Such end-of-history thinking can be extremely vicious. Communism, for example, had a merciless logic behind its purges. Believers require non-believers and are always thinking about them.

But living religions, he said, can never be fully defined. They are like a reverse black hole that endlessly generates provocation. They are profoundly “horizonal”—wonder driven— as opposed to bounded.

Finite games require boundaries in space, time, and psychology. Infinite players prefer to live within horizons—boundaries that expand as you approach them.

And rather than seeking to defeat the opponent, “an infinite player has the talent to see when someone is about to lose and is eager to change the rules to get them back in the game.”

The copies of Carse’s book Finite and Infinite Games we had on hand sold out (that’s never happened before with a speaker). You can get your own copy at this LINK.

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