WAYS OF KNOWING: LANGUAGE
CLASS ACTIVITY i: GaMES AND SPORTS
Students arrange themselves in pairs. Ask them to make a draft list of at least 50 different “games” in ten minutes.
Next, the pairs combine to form groups of four. They are given five minutes to compare the two lists and eliminate any repeats. If the new list does not amount to a total of 75 games, the groups must think again and add more.
What is a game? List the diagnostic features of games.
The list of diagnostic features is critical to this activity. Sufficient time should be allocated to complete the task. Next, the group must circle with a marker pen items on the games list that are “sports.” Consensus must be reached. Any controversial, marginal or borderline sports must be identified concretely either as “sport” or “not a sport.”
Make a list of the diagnostic features that differentiate sports from games. Are sports a subset of games? Draw a Venn diagram to illustrate your response.
Appointed scribes from each group of four write down their list of diagnostic features for games on the whiteboard. One volunteer remains at the board to erase repeats and tidy up the list.
Does the master list fully encapsulate and define what a game is? Do all games exhibit all of the features? What do you conclude?
CLASS ACTIVITY II: INVENT YOUR OWN GAME
Next students are divided into four large groups and separated. They should out of earshot of each other, preferably in different locations. Each group receives a novel combination of equipment. The exact selections of equipment are unimportant.
Deck of cards
Sets of colored plastic bears in three colors
Large plastic creature (like a whale)
Two different hats
Some stuffed animals
A bicycle pump
Short length of rope
Exactly as for GROUP 1
Students are given 15 minutes to invent, play, refine, name and rehearse an original game. They have only three constraints:
All equipment must be used.
There must be a winner.
The game must be safe.
The groups will be required to demonstrate their game without explanation to the remainder of the TOK class; who will attempt to discern the rules. During the activity the teacher should circulate around the various locations. Teams should be given fair warning before being told to finish the task and return to the TOK classroom for the public viewings.
Did the invented games exhibit all of the diagnostic features listed previously? Could any of these invented games be described as sports?
WITTGENSTEIn'S GAMES AND FAMILY RESEMBLANCES
At this point it is worth sharing with the students Wittgenstein's introduction to the notion of "family resemblances." Printable pdf. After completing the invent your own game activity it should resonate:
Consider for example the proceedings that we call "games." I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? —Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games'"—but look and see whether there is anything common to all. —For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don't think, but look!
Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost.
—Are they all 'amusing'? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis.
In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis.
Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared!
And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; can see how similarities crop up and disappear. And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.
I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than "family resemblances"; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way.
—And I shall say: 'games' form a family.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1963) Philosophical Investigations. Aphorisms 66 and 67. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Blackwell, Oxford.