Being Played: Gadamer and Philosophy’s Hidden Dynamic

by Jeremy Sampson (University of Chichester, UK)

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Jeremy Sampson’s generous-spirited, wide-ranging—and, yes, at times playful—'Being Played' offers a useful primer, especially for students interested in the philosophy of comic literature. Across eight chapters and a conclusion, the book offers what Sampson calls an “ontology of play”. The method possesses a sound basis in philosophical inquiry, including illustrative excurses into poetry and literature—from Shakespeare to Gerard Manley Hopkins—as the instantiation of the ludic temperament. Registering in a variety of ways how this temperament persists as a touchstone for modern philosophy, culminating in the work of Gadamer, its finest and most thoughtful proponent, marks Sampson’s signal achievement. Being Played bears the lightest of scholarly touches throughout; the gravity of its underlying message will be keenly felt.

Stuart Christie
Professor and Head
Dept of English Language and Literature
Hong Kong Baptist University

This wide-ranging book is a masterful adaptation and extension of Gadamer’s aesthetic theory of playfulness. Jeremy Sampson employs a new hypothesis, which he calls the fundamental “ludicity of Being”, as a tool for interpreting the metaphysical, religious, and existential meaning of three very different, yet highly influential, literary dramas by William Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, and Oscar Wilde. Peppered with a playfulness well-suited to its title, the book nevertheless offers an impressive depth of insight that will transfix any reader who joins the author in a lifelong search for the enduring meaning of human life in a post-modern world.

Prof. Stephen Palmquist
Dept. of Religion and Philosophy
Hong Kong Baptist University

Are we being played? Is our understanding of the traditionally fixed and static concepts of philosophy based on an oversimplification? This book explores some of the theories of the self since Descartes, together with the rationalism and the empiricism that sustain these ideas, and draws some startling conclusions using Gadamer’s philosophical study of play as its starting point. Gadamer’s ludic theory, Sampson argues, reveals a dynamic of play that exists at the deepest level of philosophy. It is this dynamic that could provide a solution in relation to the Gadamer/Habermas hermeneutics debate and the Gadamer/Derrida relativism debate, together with a theory of totality.

Sampson shows how ludic theory can be a game-changer in understanding the relationship between philosophy and literature, exploring the dynamic between the fictive and non-fictive worlds. These worlds are characterized simultaneously by sameness (univocity of Being) and difference (equivocity of Being). The book questions Heidegger’s idea that the univocity of Being is universal, instead maintaining that the relationship between the univocity of Being and equivocity of Being is real, and that ontological mediation is required to present them as a unified whole. Using the works of Shakespeare, Beckett and Wilde, Sampson contends that such a mediation, termed ‘the ludicity of Being’, takes place between literature and its audience. This literary example has profound implications not only for literature and its attendant theories but also for philosophy — in particular, ontology and hermeneutics.

This book will be of particular interest to scholars of philosophy and literature, for it seeks to develop our understanding of ontology and hermeneutics. It should also engage the general reader who wishes to understand literature and philosophy with a genuinely new set of perspectives.

Game Plan
i Introduction
ii. Axaximander to Aristole: The Classical Beginnings of Play
iii. Game Plan

Chapter 1
State of Play
i . Descartes in Replay: I Think Therefore I Am?
ii. Plotinus’ Dynamic Return in the Arena of Play
iii. Eckhart and Guardini: Mysticism and Play
iv. Reason’s Rules and Kant’s Scepticism
v. Kant and Gadamer: Playing Doubles
vi. Gadamer: A Philosophical Balancing Act
vii. Gadamer and Wittgenstein: Different Games, Different Players

Chapter 2
Gadamer’s Dynamic Equilibrium
i.Homo Ludens and the Basic Rules of the Game
ii. Eckhart and Guardini: Playing with Ideas
iii. Reason and the Purpose of Play
iv. Philosophical Ludics: Essentiality and Provisionality
v. Experience as Play: Gadamer’s Analogy of Festival
vi. Marking Out the Contemporary Field of Play
vii. Literary History and Experience as Play

Chapter 3
Habermas’ Red Card and the Circle of Critical Reciprocity
i.Gadamer and Habermas: The Present Stalemate
ii. Reason, Hermeneutics and the Circle of Critical Reciprocity
iii. Kuhn’s Paradigm Shift and the Circle of Critical Reciprocity
iv. Phronesis and the Circle of Critical Reciprocity
v. Phronesis and the Literary Classic

Chapter 4
Derrida: The Philosopher and the Bottomless Chessboard
i.Being Played on a Bottomless Chessboard
ii The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter in Paris 1981: A Game That
Can Never Be Won?
iii. Defending Derrida: A Bottomless Chessboard
iv. The Heidegger Controversy: Derrida’s Checkmate
v. The Philosopher and the Classic Chessboard

Chapter 5
Heidegger’s Dwelling; Space to Play
i.Play as Seeing Double
ii. Play as the Fitly Character of Being
iii. Dwelling in “The Origin of the Work of Art”
iv. Dwelling in “Building, Dwelling, Thinking”
v. Dwelling in “Four Seminars”
vi. Dwelling in “Poetically Man Dwells”
vii. Dwelling upon the Literary Text

Chapter 6
Lived by Powers We Pretend to Understand in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
i.Playing to the Audience
ii. Being That Can Be Understood Is Language
iii. Heidegger’s Masque: The Univocity of Being
iv. The Current State of Play: Heidegger’s Masque, Derrida and Wittgenstein
v. Univocity and Equivocity
vi. Dramatic Rhyming
vii. Characters in Search of an Audience
viii The Play of Metaphor and the Metaphoricity of Language
ix. Play as Rhetoric
x. Play and the Festive

Chapter 7
Tarrying as the Still Point of Play in Waiting for Godot
i.Renewing the Game
ii. Play and Beckett’s Metatheatricality
iii. Becoming and Return: “Waiting for Godot” as Festival
iv. Play as an Intensification of Extremes in “Waiting for Godot”
v. Waiting as a Game of Determinate Boundaries
vi. Ludicity of Being as a Response to Derrida and Wittgenstein

Chapter 8
Play and the Art of Wasting Time in The Importance of Being Earnest
i.The Value of Wasting Time
ii. A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
iii. The Trivial Play of Nothingness
iv. Purposiveness without Purpose
v. The Ludicity of Comedy: Trivializing without Trivial Intent
vi. The Ludicity of Comedy and Phronesis
vii. Phronesis, the Ludicity of Being and the Value of Literature

Endgame: The Ludicity of Being and Totality
i.The Ludicity of Being: Philosophy’s Hidden Dynamic
ii. Play and the Remembrance of Things Past
iii. The Possibility of Totality and the Ludicity of Being
iv. The Ludicity of Being and the Order of Things
v. The Ludicity of Being and the Call of Eternity



Jeremy Sampson has recently graduated with a doctorate in Hermeneutics and Literary History from the University of Chichester, United Kingdom. He is also a freelance writer who has worked for The Times Higher Education Supplement and Oxford University Press. Amongst his forthcoming publications is Envisioned Lands (2020). Currently he lives and works in Hong Kong.

Instance of play, phenomenon of play, intermittency of play, cultural reappropriation, counterpresence, circle of critical reciprocity, essentiality, provisionality, ludicity of Being, metatheatricality, ontological hiddenness, totality, theatric empathy ludic, ludic sublimity, ludicization and philosophical ludics

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title
Being Played: Gadamer and Philosophy’s Hidden Dynamic
Physical size
236mm x 160mm
Publication date
September 2019