The Grasshopper – Third Edition
Games, Life and Utopia
  • Publication Date: April 3, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781554812158 / 1554812151
  • 262 pages; 6" x 9"

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The Grasshopper – Third Edition

Games, Life and Utopia

  • Publication Date: April 3, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781554812158 / 1554812151
  • 262 pages; 6" x 9"

In the mid twentieth century the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously asserted that games are indefinable; there are no common threads that link them all. “Nonsense,” said the sensible Bernard Suits: “playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” The short book Suits wrote demonstrating precisely that is as playful as it is insightful, as stimulating as it is delightful. Through the jocular voice of Aesop’s Grasshopper, a “shiftless but thoughtful practitioner of applied entomology,” Suits not only argues that games can be meaningfully defined; he also suggests that playing games is a central part of the ideal of human existence, and so games belong at the heart of any vision of Utopia.

This new edition of The Grasshopper includes illustrations from Frank Newfeld created for the book’s original publication, as well as an introduction by Thomas Hurka and a new appendix on the meaning of ‘play.’


“Like Erasmus’s Praise of Folly and Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew, Suits’s The Grasshopper sparkles with wit and fun; and outranks those wonderful works in clear, firm philosophical conclusions. Defying certain discouragements, Suits constructs an illuminating definition of games, which he defends in lively dialogues, amusing parables, and cascades of subtle analytical distinctions. That is achievement enough to make a new classic in the history of philosophy. Suits offers more: an application of his definition in a discussion of how much we may have to rely on games—deliberately using relatively inefficient means to reach freely stipulated goals—if life is to continue to have meaning. We may be able to regain thereby the meaning lost as advances in technology enable us to escape one by one the tasks that necessity used to impose on humankind.” — David Braybrooke, Dalhousie University / The University of Texas at Austin

The Grasshopper is an amazing book. Philosophically profound, yet genuinely funny. While primarily an articulation and defense of a highly plausible definition of games (and we all know what Wittgenstein said about that), it also manages to raise some of the deepest and most challenging questions about the meaning of life. All in the form of dialogues between an insect and his disciples! There is simply nothing else like it.” — Shelly Kagan, Yale University

“Philosophers are not generally known for fine writing, but once in a generation or two a book appears out of nowhere, unclassifiable, inspired, amazing, mesmerizing, wonderful, classic … ” — Philosophy and Literature

The Players

Chapter One: Death of the Grasshopper
Chapter Two: Disciples
Chapter Three: Construction of a definition
Chapter Four: Triflers, cheats, and spoilsports
Chapter Five: Taking the long way home
Chapter Six: Ivan and Abdul
Chapter Seven: Games and paradox
Chapter Eight: Mountain climbing
Chapter Nine: Reverse English
Chapter Ten: The remarkable career of Porphyryo Sneak
Chapter Eleven: The case history of Bartholomew Drag
Chapter Twelve: Open games
Chapter Thirteen: Amateurs, professionals, and Games People Play
Chapter Fourteen: Resurrection
Chapter Fifteen: Resolution

Appendix One: The fool on the hill
Appendix Two: Wittgenstein in the meadow
Appendix Three: Words on play

Permissions Acknowledgments

The late Bernard Suits was Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo.