Being Played: Gadamer and Philosophy’s Hidden Dynamic [PDF, E-Book]

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.

by Karl Simms

Introduction: Game Plan

Chapter 1 The State of Play

Chapter 2 Gadamer’s Dynamic Equilibrium

Chapter 3 Habermas’ Red Card and the Circle of Critical Reciprocity

Chapter 4 Derrida: The Philosopher and the Bottomless Chessboard

Chapter 5 Heidegger’s Dwelling: Space to Play

Chapter 6 Lived by Powers We Pretend to Understand in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Chapter 7 Tarrying as the Still Point of Play in Waiting for Godot

Chapter 8 Play and the Art of Wasting Time in The Importance of Being Earnest

Conclusion - Endgame: The Ludicity of Being and Totality




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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Book Title

Being Played: Gadamer and Philosophy’s Hidden Dynamic





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Publication date

September 2019