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Chris
Outsider philosopher, game designer and author
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Hi Richard, I didn't know Moyers had to play hardball with PBS to get "The Power of Myth" made... although it does make a lot of sense! :) As for films, I absolutely agree that the arts will be an important part of the resolution of our predicament, but no one media artefact or medium will suffice. Once the dimensions of the problem are fully understood (and I do not believe we have reached this point yet), it will take efforts from a variety of media, from the sciences, from philosophers, from journalists, and, frankly, from everyone, to make the changes (whatever they turn out to be in practice). But there is not a single audience to be reached, but rather a diverse panoply of cultures - so it will take many media artefacts (of whatever kind) to achieve anything of substance. I'll take a look at the book you mention - it sounds interesting, and I'm very interested in writing techniques for reaching a wide audience. All the best, Chris.
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…is that it reminds me of the 1977 Traveller rulebook. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at ihobo
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…is that it reminds me of the 1977 Traveller rulebook. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Only a Game
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An open letter to Charles Cameron responding to his blog-letter No Man’s Sky at Zenpundit as part of the Republic of Bloggers. Further replies welcome! Dear Charles, The second of my five religions, Zen Buddhism, came about entirely as a... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Only a Game
Hi Richard, Thanks for coming back to continue our conversation. I have a number of things I should like to respond to here, but I might as well start with Alan Watts and Zen Buddhism. (I didn't respond to your video link because it was a video and I don't watch internet videos... I'm afraid I'm a words-person; I get impatient with videos - they are so slow compared to reading!) Regarding Watts, you say: "Watts came at it from a Zen perspective but ultimately abandoned ALL religious dogma, Zen and otherwise." This is a strange sentence to me, because Zen and Ch'an Buddhism are by their very nature anti-dogmatic. To abandon Zen dogma would be to practice Zen Buddhism! :) Watts later work moves very strongly in the space of Advaita Vendanta, which grows out of the Hindu traditions. I have a lot of time for philosophy in this space, and Watts was very talented at bringing it to the West. We are facing a nest of problems at the moment, among which I concur with you that our greatest involves our relationship to our planet. But one of the unseen problems of the environmental crisis is that those who feel it most acutely rapidly become unable to communicate it to those who do not. That's because the extent of the problem is such that it quickly becomes apocalyptic, and thus tacitly dogmatic. The problem of dogma is not a problem of religion but a problem of human thought. And it's a tricky one, as it's something we see clearly in others but not ourselves. I agree with Campbell that new mythologies are required. But I break slightly with Campbell in that the new mythology cannot be quite like traditional mythology, because the conditions that fostered those narratives are not the ones we currently face. Our current situation, one which Charles Taylor calls "the Nova effect", is of a tremendous diversity of ways of being, indeed, an ever-diversifying panoply of religious and non-religious positions. It is no longer possible for singular mythic systems to do the work they once did. We require new approaches. One promising strand is coming from continental Europe, from the philosopher Isabelle Stengers, and her close colleague Bruno Latour. My own work in ethics draws against theirs and several other philosophers and writers to attempt to lay out a way of understanding the problem - because the problem is more complicated than at first it seems. This is the subject of my book "Chaos Ethics", which is a fractured analysis of the moral problems we are facing today. A key challenge therein is that from every singular position, a natural entrenchment occurs, demonising those who do not share our concerns and cutting people off from genuine political discourse. This is a part of the problem that "Wikipedia Knows Nothing" comes at - that will be out within the next month, and it's a free ebook (and a short read), so if you're interested in my work that would be a great place to start. All the best, Chris.
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Hi Richard, Thanks for your thoughts here... the unbroken chain of inheritance, and the sense in which the story of life as a whole is one of continuity, is a thread that I explore in depth in The Mythology of Evolution. One of the things I find fascinating about the stories told about evolution is the choice of emphasis one has - but like you, I prefer to emphasise this sense of continuity. Regarding Campbell and the distinction between Dharmic (Eastern) and Abrahamic (Western) religious traditions, you are certainly correct that he recognised that the Dharmic traditions were well-suited to our new cosmic imaginary. But his complaint against the Abrahamic traditions was slightly more complicated than suggesting that the world view was unworkable; on the contrary, he was keen to stress that Christian mythology was just as workable a mythic system as any other, and that the problem was coming because "it always been the way of multitudes to interpret their own symbols literally" ("The Impact of Science on Myth", 1961). There's something of a problem with Campbell's thought here (although he gestures well towards possible resolutions), in that he is calling into problem a psychological tendency that he also admits as inevitable. Campbell was also acutely aware that the Abrahamic mythologies had an important legacy for us today, writing: "It is not easy for Westerners to realize that the ideas recently developed in the West of the individual, his selfhood, his rights, and his freedom, have no meaning whatsoever in the Orient. They had no meaning for primitive man. They would have meant nothing to the peoples of the early Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Chinese, or Indian civilizations. They are, in fact, repugnant to the ideals, the aims and orders of life, of most of the peoples of this earth. And yet... they are the truly great 'new thing' that we do indeed represent to the world and that constitutes our Occidental revelation of a properly human spiritual ideal, true to the highest potentiality of our species." ("The Separation of East and West", 1961) So for Campbell, and for me, the religious traditions all bring something to the table, and the problem is not so much any specific tradition as it is failures in practice within certain traditions. If you have not already read it, I can recommend Campbell's book "The Myths We Live By", from which the quotes above are taken. I used it extensively while I was writing The Mythology of Evolution. It's a set of essays adapted from a series of talks he gave in New York between 1958 and 1971, and it's the best source for examining his views on the challenges facing contemporary mythology, and will be most rewarding for someone like yourself who is already well-engaged with the core of Campbell's thought. All the best, Chris.
Toggle Commented Aug 20, 2016 on Exposing the Mythologies of Evolution at Only a Game
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It is I who must thank you Charles, for remaining in contact! I've successfully drafted a blog letter in reply, which will run early next week. You have my gratitude for the exchange, and as always, the digital spectre of my friendship.
Toggle Commented Aug 19, 2016 on No Man's Sky (Blog Letter) at Only a Game
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Hi Richard, Thanks for returning to continue our conversation. I see where you are coming from, but I think to anyone living inside theology, the attribution of 'pantheistic divine experience' to Campbell is accurate. Even Campbell, when engaging with Christians, was sensitive to their way of viewing things, and might have recognised the merit in this particular characterisation. I have great respect for Campbell's work, which I am a huge admirer of, and this is the only thing I've written that is close to critical. All of my references to Campbell in my academic work are supportive of his work, and indeed the relationship between mythology, imagination, and metaphor is a large part of what I do in philosophy these days. It seems you might be misreading this piece if you think it aims at being persuasive. That isn't my purpose here at all. Regardless, you've made your case very clearly, and I'm sure there are others who would agree with your criticism of what I wrote here. Many thanks for sharing it, Chris.
Toggle Commented Aug 19, 2016 on What Did Joseph Campbell Believe? at Only a Game
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Over at the marvellously eclectic Zenpundit, Charles Cameron sends me a blog letter that mashes together my recent lightweight post on atheology with my recent featherweight post on No Man’s Sky. Written in what Charles terms a “poetico-philosophical” language, it... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2016 at Only a Game
Hi Richard, As I have elucidated in the earlier comments, the purpose in writing this piece was to take on Campbell's hostility to Christian theology, which you will find scattered throughout his work - whenever he brings up his Martin Buber anecdote in particular - and position myself in line with his Christian critics and think through their accusation fairly. I found their criticism to be vindicated. The critique I advance here proceeds from this premise, and I feel it does hit its mark. At the same time, because of the way that this is mounted, it does not work as an expression of Campbell's approach towards religion. But then, Campbell's approach is grounded in the Hindu traditions, as you admit here in your comment. The difference between Campbell and the Upanishads, however, was that Campbell was weighed down by the pressure of orthodox theology in the United States. When the Upanishads were written, the sages had not yet had to deal with that problem. We, on the other hand, must deal with this problem, and we need to do better than Campbell did - even if he was doing better than many of his generation. I agree with you that Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Art That) is the core thought in Campbell's spirituality. Appreciating this has no bearing on the points I am making in this piece, though. If you have no interest in Campbell as a man, then this piece is outside of your interest. But he was a man, a human, and I'm interested in this side of him as well as his teaching. I feel you are mistaken to chastise me for setting that aside in order to look at him from another perspective, but if that is what you had to do, then so be it. This piece was just something I had to do. Tat Tvam Asi. Many thanks for commenting, Chris.
Toggle Commented Aug 19, 2016 on What Did Joseph Campbell Believe? at Only a Game
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You might have noticed a little game came out recently called No Man’s Sky. If you didn’t, you must be trawling a different part of the internet from me because I have been invaded, cajoled, frustrated, and panhandled by No... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2016 at ihobo
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You might have noticed a little game came out recently called No Man’s Sky. If you didn’t, you must be trawling a different part of the internet from me because I have been invaded, cajoled, frustrated, and panhandled by No... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2016 at Only a Game
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As part of my work on the lineages of player practices, I’m beavering away on a five part serial looking at game inventories. It was originally going to be just one post entitled The Joy of Sets, but it has... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2016 at Only a Game
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As part of my work on the lineages of player practices, I’m beavering away on a five part serial looking at game inventories. It was originally going to be just one post entitled The Joy of Sets, but it has... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2016 at ihobo
Hi Mordechai, It is not so much belief in absolutes as rendering the world as a matter of belief at all, perhaps. Your question is not at all ignorant; I cranked this piece out on the train back from Scotland, and didn't make much effort to polish it for clarity because in the last few years my pieces on religion and non-religion have failed to produce any discussion! I'm pleasantly surprised that this one has produced some interest. A little philosophical history. This story begins with Judaic tradition, which is the first to take the monotheistic position that our God is real, and your god is smoke and mirrors (cf. Bel and the Dragon). There is a cross-relationship here with Zoroastrianism that is difficult to disentangle, but it doesn't matter for our purposes. Christianity inherits this and cross-breeds it with Plato's idea that there is truth, but it is in 'another world' and thus we only have beliefs that 'track' this deeper truth - but certain special people can bridge the two worlds (philosophers for Plato, more commonly scientists today). When Christianity had major problems with its civilisation in the so-called Dark Ages, Islamic scholars preserved the connections between Abrahamic traditions and Greek philosophers, and helped carry it forward, where it was picked up by the Christian empires centuries later. The Judaic tradition doesn't, to my knowledge, have this Platonic influence. However contemporary Jews, I suspect, acquire much of this perspective through the sciences, which have grown out of Christianity and Islam on the back of their empires (since scientific research is a cultural luxury). Indeed, because of the influence of the sciences today everyone has inherited this aspect of Platonic thought, which we have inherited via the Christian empires - that's what's marked with the term 'Christendom' in this piece. I present an argument against this perspective in Wikipedia Knows Nothing, which is out in September, and the ebook is free (plug plug). Regarding specific kinds of atheism, I'm not saying that atheist positions are illegitimate, as such, so much as that they don't escape from the religion that they are rejecting and sometimes act as if that was exactly their strength. Some atheists understand their situation better than others, and there are some very sophisticated kinds of atheism around today. However, as I suggest here, the moment you're drawing on atheism for your identity, you're working in contrast cases. You are saying of yourself 'my position on religion is defined in opposition'. Just as politics ends up defining itself in terms of oppositions of liberal to conservative, atheism is a form of contrast. I think there is a sense that atheists belong negatively to specific religious traditions, but here I am somewhat speculating as the vast majority of atheists I meet are achristian. I suspect that ajewish atheists would have a slightly different character, but I haven't met any so I don't have the experience to draw upon. You have the opposite experience, which makes it hard for us to compare notes! I wonder if we can find someone who bridges between us? Again, the influence of the sciences in spreading Platonic thought beyond specific religious traditions muddies the waters... but still, I'd like to know a little more about the kinds of atheism around. I find this whole subject rather fascinating. Thanks for taking an interest! Chris.
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2016 on Disbelieving Just One More God at Only a Game
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Hi Matt, It is rambly, certainly, but the premise strikes me as sound. Hi Drew, I can see where you're coming from here, but my claim is that the whole concept of 'disbelieving' here is a variation on Christian theology... to think this way is to think with this tradition in practice, and only against it in the details. Thank you both for sharing your views! Chris.
Toggle Commented Aug 9, 2016 on Disbelieving Just One More God at Only a Game
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Contains ideas some atheists may find offensive. A well-known joke states that since every religion involves disbelieving the gods of other religions, atheism merely involves disbelieving just one more god. The profound truth upon which this joke relies is that... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2016 at Only a Game
Hey Bart, While your nomination was certainly not part of the discourse of academic philosophy, I felt it was a mistake to treat 'philosophy' as only marking this discourse. After all, 'Eastern philosophy' was never part of this discourse either, but it is certainly philosophy! The attempts to fence off what is or isn't philosophy aren't enormously helpful - far more useful to recognise that philosophy can be found in all manner of places, including novels, movies, and, yes, a work on system-building. Many thanks for nominating it! And congratulations for coming second place in the spurious competition. Chris.
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Over on ihobo.com today, my Prezi for my DiGRA-FDG presentation, No-one Plays Alone. You can have a lot of fun just exploring the timeline in this one - check it out! Also in the same post, a 'call for allies'... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2016 at Only a Game
For those of you who have brought a suitable device to DiGRA-FDG (and for those not able to make the conference), here's my Prezi for No-one Plays Alone: The timeline in particularly has a lot to offer an errant explorer...... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2016 at ihobo
A Study in Psylocke was a short two-part serial that ran here at Only a Game from July 5th to 12th 2016. Effectively a sequel to Corporate Megatexts, it examined the relationship between the different comic series that featured Betsy... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2016 at Only a Game
Hi Michael, Congratulations on 'winning' this spurious competition, and many thanks for your detailed commentary here! The hegemony in philosophy applies in many respects to any academic discipline; there are always some voices that rise about the others, and while those will always be ones that deserve to be heard, it does not follow that the ones that remain obscured were not worth hearing. I don't think it's self-indulgent for you to share your personal connection with the book you nominated; it's mandated. It would have been impolite to not comment in this way! And I really want to see this diagram you refer to now... even if the book is out-of-print, it will be indexed in at least one library. A library loan may be your surest way of sourcing it now. I thoroughly enjoyed this idle pursuit, and many thanks to you and everyone else for taking part. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm at a conference and shouldn't be hiding in my robots. With great love and respect, Chris.
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Following last week’s background to the Top Ten, and Numbers 10 through 6, here are the final five books in the countdown of obscurity. 5. Max Stirner The Ego and its Own (1844) 16,200-18,300 hits Nominated by J. Moesgaard The... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2016 at Only a Game
Hi Ben, "when you look deeper at their 'success stories' they don't actually seem to know why what they did worked and are usually unable to reproduce it in future projects." This made me chuckle, as this is broadly true for the entire history of the games industry! :) The only companies that have sustained success have created games that naturally imply further iterations. I spoke in this piece about developers failing, but another story could be told of how success has brought down companies who were never able to make another successful game. I rather suspect that story goes far beyond metrics! Many thanks for getting involved in the discussion! Much appreciated. Chris.
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Hi Michael, I made a commitment early in the process not to make exclusionary decisions about what qualified - except by setting aside recent publications, for the reasons I outlined at the very beginning. Yes, it's odd to describe Pirsig or the Tractatus as books that 'no-one recommends' - but then, there's a reason they're near the end of the list, and it's striking to me that Blondel - which I'd never even heard of - scored even lower on obscurity. It's a reminder that obscurity is a function of community, and that treating humanity as a single community is very misleading when considering topics like this. Those two books in particular mark an interesting contrast - the popular philosophy book no academic philosopher recommends, and the academic philosopher's book that no popular readership ever encounters. Have you ever recommended the Tractatus to someone? I know I haven't! Seeing it on the list of nominations made me realise that this is a book everyone in academic philosophy knows, but it's not a book anyone recommends. And that itself was interesting to me. Thanks for commenting - and nominating! Your book will be coming up in the Top Five, in case you hadn't guessed. :) Rest assured, it only gets more obscure from here! All the best, Chris.
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