Play as Symbol of the World: And Other Writings

Play as Symbol of the World: And Other Writings

Play as Symbol of the World: And Other Writings

Play as Symbol of the World: And Other Writings


Eugen Fink is considered one of the clearest interpreters of phenomenology and was the preferred conversational partner of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. In Play as Symbol of the World, Fink offers an original phenomenology of play as he attempts to understand the world through the experience of play. He affirms the philosophical significance of play, why it is more than idle amusement, and reflects on the movement from "child's play" to "cosmic play." Well-known for its nontechnical, literary style, this skillful translation by Ian Alexander Moore and Christopher Turner invites engagement with Fink's philosophy of play and related writings on sports, festivals, and ancient cult practices.


Ian Alexander Moore and Christopher Turner

The greatest phenomenon of phenomenology for me is Fink.

       Edmund Husserl

Translated here are Eugen Fink’s collected writings on play, published in German in 2010 as Volume 7 of the Eugen Fink Gesamtausgabe. in addition to drafts, seminar notes, and radio lectures recorded from 1954 to 1973 on the philosophical significance of play, this text contains the first English translation of Fink’s magnum opus, Play as Symbol of the World. Published in 1960, though first delivered as a lecture course at the University of Freiburg in 1957, it should be numbered among other great works published by former students of Martin Heidegger around this time: Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition (1958), Emmanuel Levinas’s Totality and Infinity (1961), and Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method (1960), which also devotes considerable attention to the theme of play. Also included in this text is our revised translation of Fink’s “Oasis of Happiness: Thoughts toward an Ontology of Play.” Together, the writings collected here constitute the most intensive and comprehensive philosophical engagement with play in the twentieth century, a theme that is all too often considered to be mere idle amusement, to be valid only as a restful pause which helps us return all the more energized to what is “really” important, or to be subordinate to pedagogy as a means by which to educate the child and socialize the adult more effectively. Against these traditional views of play, Fink offers a speculative phenomenology of play that begins from the sort of play with which we are all familiar and from there attempts to reflect on play, moving from child’s play all the way up to cosmic play, where the world itself is conceived as a “game without a player.” Along the way, he broaches such wide-ranging topics as embodiment, ontology, theology, sports, pedagogy, mimesis, cult practices, mythology, drama, and anthropology.

The afterword to the German volume, written by Cathrin Nielsen and Hans Rainer Sepp and also included in this translation, explains the philosophical trajectory and significance of Fink’s lifelong work on the theme of play. On account . . .

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