6. Finite and Infinite Games - James P. Carse


April 21st, 2020

29 mins 35 secs

Season 1

Your Hosts

About this Episode

This book is challenging. Some people hate. Many people love it.

It has been described as, "Disturbingly good" for it's ability to shake the concepts of what you think about your approaches to life. It is regarded as a book you need to read, re-read and then read again.

We blindly dive into it and attempt to distill it's wisdom for listeners in a usable manner, whilst not making too big a fools of ourselves.


James P. Carse is a philosopher and author. He published this book in 1986 and it has never lost relevance.

" 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."

A simple concept with oodles of insights that go deeper and deeper. Question everything you think you know and dive into a redefinition of how you approach everything. Some nice quotes to get you started:

“A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”

“There is no finite game unless the players freely choose to play it. No one can play who is forced to play.”

“Rules are not valid because the Senate passed them, or because heroes once played by them, or because God pronounced them through Moses or Muhammad.”

“There are no rules that require us to obey rules. If there were, there would have to be a rule for those rules, and so on.”

“It may appear that the prizes for winning are indispensable, that without them life is meaningless, perhaps even impossible.”

“While no one is forced to remain a lawyer or a rodeo performer or a kundalini yogi after being selected for these roles, each role is nonetheless surrounded both by ruled restraints and expectations on the part of others…."

"We cannot do whatever we please and remain lawyers or yogis— and yet we could not be either unless we pleased.”

“The constant attentiveness of finite players to the progress of the competition can lead them to believe that every move they make they must make.”