Archive for February 7th, 2013

Edited by Benjamin Hale, this text is a collection of unpublished articles which brings together philosophy, understood in its academic context, and chess.

The best way to think of this book is as an introduction to philosophy for chess players and nothing more. With that in mind, you shouldn’t expect to be too challenged by the content even if you have never read academic philosophy before, as you won’t be burdened by genius or bewitched by brilliance in this publication. Though the book begins with content which, technically speaking, lies within the analytic tradition in philosophy, it does not delve deeply as most articles are written with the reader in mind, meaning that terminology, experiment and argumentation are explained sufficiently. However, if philosophy is new to you, I suggest you invest a little time researching the earlier content -excluding the first article, which is only there to help sell the book- as some of the later content will refer to it in some shape or form. That is important should you wish to read the book in its entirety. Philosophy cannot be defined by its subject matter, therefore, towards the end of the text we are introduced to a much broader subject matter. The method and approach is rigorous enough so that we can say with certainty that what is being presented is academic philosophy.

Given that I have spent at least 5 years studying philosophy formally, this book wasn’t written for me. I understand the text as being introductory but the difficulty with simplifying philosophy is that if you go too far, it stops becoming philosophy. In my opinion there are a number of articles within the text that come dangerously close to that threshold, and one or two which cross it. Many types of error can be found in this publication, some could have been easily avoided had the author referenced his claims instead of relying upon the vernacular to carry him through, in others terms are introduced that the author clearly has little understanding of and can only allude to, many articles annoyingly slip in and out of the first person, making you wonder on what level they are suitable for publication. One article in particular looks like nothing more than a half-decent first draft.

Aristotle once asked ‘What is it about a thing that makes a thing what it is?‘ Concerning this publication, the best answer I can give -if we ignore the spurious claims in the introduction- is, primarily, an intention by the editing author to find a niche in the market, and secondarily, to offer the opportunity for writers people who write to find their way into print, which within academia is usually a necessity.

Even though both chess and philosophy have long literary traditions, there has been little convergence between the two, and in my opinion, what has been published has always failed to make a genuine impact within their own respective fields let alone each others. I don’t feel that this book has made a genuine contribution towards bridging that divide.

A disappointing read.

MJM

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