how to play chess

How To Play Chess

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anaxagoras 176 ( +1 | -1 )
Wittgenstein on Chess Well, this is a little off-topic, but I'm wondering how many chess addicts out there have ever encountered Wittgenstein and his frequent mentioning of chess as an instructive tool in the Philosophical Investigations?

Continuing his attack on the notion of a private language he writes:

"How should we counter someone who told us that with [i]him[/i] understanding was an inner process?--How should we counter him if he said that with him knowing how to play chess was an inner process?--We should say that when we want to know if he can play chess we aren't interested in anything that goes on inside him.--And if he replies that this is in fact just what we are interested in, that is, we are intersted in whether he can play chess--then we shall have to draw his attention to the criteria which would demonstrate his capacity, and on the other hand to the criteria for the 'inner states.'
Even if someone had a particular capacity only when, and only as long as, he had a particular feeling, the feeling would not be the capacity."
p. 181

And there many other places where the subject is brought up... So far as practical chess skill is concerned, his remarks are obviously useless. On the other hand, I think he has a lot of light to throw on the psychological aspects of the game, i.e. your opponent's 'intention' is not something hidden or kept from view, but is right in front of you on the board. Thoughts or comments? Here is another one I like:

"In order to get clear about the meaning of the word 'think' we watch ourselves while we think; what we observe will be what the word means!--But this concept is not used like that. (It would be as if without knowing how to play chess, I were to try and make out what the word 'mate' meant by close observation of the last move of some game of chess.)"
section 316
loreta 2 ( +1 | -1 )
Wow good topic!
desertfox 58 ( +1 | -1 )
Wittgenstein? I remember him. Once I translated an article of his, written in his tortous and dry style. The student for whom I did the translation, decided to leave all together the subject of Philosophy and became instead a successful lawyer. That shows you how "good" Wittengstein was. A converted Jew, not a good Jew anymore and not a good Christian. The worse type of person. It seemed at the time that he writes for himself and does not mind about his readers and their ability to understand his ideas. You want a Philospher about chess, read Lasker Emanuel, both Philospher and World Chess Champion and a normal Jew.

bartlebie 25 ( +1 | -1 )
desertfox you forgot that Wittgenstein was homosexual too! So no normal and of course neither a real christian nor a real jew is able to understand what he wrote. All those "signs" and "numbers" and "logic", you can never understand these things, and this shows too, how "good" somebody is.

desertfox 61 ( +1 | -1 )
BARTLEBIE He was a homo on top of everything else. I was not aware of that. His writing misses the point. The student left philosophy and went to become a successful lawyer, THANKS to the tortuous writing of Wittgenstein. I translated Maimonides (a good Jew) and Spinoza (a "heretic" Jew) and many Greek and Anglo-Saxson philosophers. They cared whether their readers understand what they wrote or not. You better stick to Lasker, Reuben Fine, or Robert Hubner, who wrote a new book about Bobby Fischer. With his meticulous reserach it seems he found many mistakes which previous critics did not see.

More: Chess
anaxagoras 7 ( +1 | -1 )
Ok, looks like I wandered into the wrong room... <shrug>
bartlebie 138 ( +1 | -1 )
Desertfox I still don't know exactly what you are trying to say. Sometimes Wittgenstein is easier to understand, but I still don't grasp the meaning of bringing his religious background into the discussion. Since Wittgensteins books were not all intended to be published (I think at least the "Philosophische Untersuchungen" were not, at least not at the time he wrote them if I remember correctly) it takes no wonder, that he wasn't interested in the understanding of his readers.

Coming back to the original theme I just wonder if anybody tried to point out the problems of chess and rule-following or chess in other possible worlds, let them be near or not.

Ok, and finally the problem where to find intentions. Of course the board is our criteria to find the intentions of our opponent, and we cannot say what his intentions may be if he will not move or if we cannot see the board. But still what goes on on the board and was a player has in mind is not really the same. Just as a capacity is not a feeling an intention is not a move.
Lets take a rational agent. From all possible moves and move orders given a position on the board he can choose some and he reconsiders them to be good and so we can say he is willing to play them, so it is his intention to play them. So his intentions are of course part of the possibilities, they are grounded in what is there on the board, but we still cannot say (just from looking at him and at the board) what he is intending without stretching the meaning of rationality (I guess).

Enough for today :)
anaxagoras 165 ( +1 | -1 )
Sorry bartlebie, I didn't realize that you were being sarcastic in your first post!

Well, rule following and chess, my opinions:

The Wittgenstein of the P.I. does not have 'mental' intentions playing any role in how we understand a rational agent to correctly follow a rule. The reason why is because (he argues) an intention in your mind to follow a rule could always be underdetermined by (or reinterpreted according to) other rules that accord with your past rule-following, yet deviate from the publicly agreed norm. So instead what justifies an interpretation of the rule is not an intention to follow it, but its agreement with community practice.

Here's another way at the same point: I ask you to tell me which piece is the bishop. You look at the chess pieces, pick one up, and bring me the bishop. How did you do it? How did you know which piece was the bishop? Someone will say he has a concept of 'bishop,' and that when he heard me ask for the bishop this concept came to his mind and matched the piece on the board which was, in fact, the bishop. It sounds plausible. Now perform one more task: imagine a bishop. Once you've done it, how did you? Did you compare the imagined bishop to your concept of a bishop?

As for chess in other possible worlds, that would depend a lot on which philosopher you ask! Someone sympathetic to Saul Kripke would say that 'chess' must pick out the same game in all possible worlds, i.e. have the same rules, otherwise it just wouldn't be chess. A Lewisian would probably say that there are may possible worlds with chess, and that the rules of chess in each of these worlds is similar in important respects.

bartlebie 226 ( +1 | -1 )
I just wanted to make a point about intentions of a chess player. Of course I should not mix it up with rule following, since this would be a question of the interpretation of the players action. But I understood your original post in another way, or I understood the quotes in another way (maybe I misunderstood them, I did not read Wittgenstein for some years now). You said that it we may interpret Wittgensteins arguments against a private language as arguments against "hidden" meanings or unseeable intentions our opponent on the board may have.
I do not think so for a reason that may be related to something as rule following, but surely not in the sense Kripke formulated it and not in a really philosophical sense (well, we will see). In a given situation on the board the question about your opponents 'intention' arises, that means, and i think so far there is no problem, what our opponent is intending to do, i.e. which moves he is going to make and which of the following positions he is evaluating in his favour. I think this is not possible by only looking at the moves he has made up to the given position (and here is an analogy to the problem of rule following, his further plans are underdetermined by his moves up to the point). So his intentions and plans are not obvious on the board.
Here I brought the rational agent into our story. If we can judge by rational standards which moves may be the best of if we could in some way make some good estimation of the standards of our opponent we may be able to find out which moves he is going to make, but this is exactly the problem of rule following: We cannot say which standards our opponent has, since this would be the rule according to which he is picking out the moves he will make, and this rule is not chiseled in stone.
But with the game of chess there are given standards of rationality, it is rational to win and so to make moves that will bring you nearer to a winning position. So we are not helpless if we try to figure out what our opponent might have in mind, we will try to make the best possible moves (in our world :) ).

I think the story about possible worlds is just a semantic trick, Lewis is a bit, well, too fanatic with them. I do not know about the important aspects of chess and when we should consider something as a game of chess if the rules are changed here and there. But that is another story.
anaxagoras 156 ( +1 | -1 )
Whew, you've really thrown a lot out here, and I'm not sure how well I can respond. But of course I'll give it a shot! ;-)

It is right to distinguish between making a correct move in chess (it doesn't break the rules), from making a rational move in chess (one that aims at checkmate or advantage). It is also right that when we speak about our opponent's 'intention,' we want to know his intention from among the latter and not the former.

However, the picture you present suggests that only the player himself knows his intention, while others can only make a psychological hypothesis that may or may not correctly predict his future behavior. Instead, what we have when we speak about 'his intention to e.g. play e4' is not a description of behavior, but something more like a rational commitment. In light of the P.I., I would say that our rational commitments in chess *are* on the board, no matter which mind has made them.

You definately touched on this point when you discussed your opponent's rational standards, though your psychological interpretation of 'intention' leads you astray when you write: "We cannot say which standards our opponent has, since this would be the rule according to which he is picking out the moves he will make, and this rule is not chiseled in stone." There cannot be more than one standard of rationality (in the P.I. at least), because the standard is publicly enforced.

An aphorism: A move in chess is not an event, it is an assertion.

I hope that makes my interpretation a little more clear, though I don't expect it to convince anyone!
nimzoredivivus 71 ( +1 | -1 )
Zen I have not read Wittgenstein, although a friend of
mine keeps telling me I should do so. According to
my friend, to really understand Wittgenstein one
must approach him with a Zen mindset. Anaxagoras,
I think you are correct when you state, "...your
opponent's 'intention' is not something hidden or
kept from view, but is right in front of you on the
board." That you might not understand your
opponent's intention is another matter. But it is
clearly there for all to see who have the eyes to do
so. It is the same with a Zen koan or a haiku. Not
all understand and some only understand in part.
That is why some chess players are better than
others: they see their opponent's intention and are
able to formulate the appropriate counter-measure.
bartlebie 102 ( +1 | -1 )
Well of course I have to follow your interpretation: Our rational commitments are on the board. But that is not the interesting point by playing chess. Surely our opponent found his played move the most rational one, but that will not make us able to predict his future moves, at least not if we do not know what exactly his thoughts about the position are.
Maybe we would or could that when playing against a computer and looking at his calculations. Looking at chess, can there really be only one standard of rationality? I do not know exactly, and I do not know if Wittgenstein really cared, when he introduced chess as a mere metapher (I think, or let it be an example). I must commit that a standard in chess is enforced publicly by the winner, so, taking up the aphorism, winning verifies your assertion. (Or if cannot smell verificationists, losing falsifies. AND OF COURSE THESE ARE NOT DISTINCT SIDES OF THE SAME COIN, WHO SAYS THIS IS A LIAR! IF YOU LISTEN HARD YOU CAN EVEN HEAR THEM DROPPING THOSE NOISEBOMBS AGAIN!)
anaxagoras 67 ( +1 | -1 )
Nimzoredivivus, I also have a friend who is electric when he compares Wittgenstein to Zen. He has a lot of interesting points, though I admittedly don't understand Zen well enough (if at all) to make much of it!

Bartlebie, try this out:

When I want to know my opponent's intention in a game of chess, I do not want a reliable prediction of what he will do.

A prediction of a 'chess move' would be: "That man there will pick up the chunk of wood that looks like a horse and place it on the square that is the intersection of the reference marks 'f' and '3.'"

What I want to know is something that only makes sense in light of the whole game of chess and our custom of playing it, e.g. "will he play Nf6 or e6?"
bartlebie 86 ( +1 | -1 )
But will you know his 'intention' before he moved e6 or Nf6? Is this knowable before the move, i.e. is his 'intention' there on the board? And why are our assertions about our opponents plans so often wrong then, if they are on the board?
I think we should take 'intention' seriously and not like "intending to win" or "intending to gain space and trying to obtain a better position" or anything like this. I don't know if alternatives are better candidates, but well, I don't know really anything for good here :-).

Maybe my opponents intention is my opponents plan, as we could say, and so had this plan in mind and is following it and I am able to see what he has in mind, just because is plan is obvious in a way. But that need not be the case I think.
Neither must he follow a plan, but I think we should take that, for the sake of argument. Nor must his plan be obvious, just because the end of the plan is not on the board yet.
anaxagoras 45 ( +1 | -1 )
So now we have our phrase: "intending to play e6, not Nf6." How do you know when you "intend to play e6, not Nf6?" What is the criterion for your *own* intention to play e6, not Nf6?

If you reply that you know you 'intend to play e6, not Nf6' because you have it in mind, then you are talking psychology and not chess.

Here's a way to understand what an 'intention' is in chess: take the sequence 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 0-0 5 Nc3 d6 6 Nf3 Nbd7 7 0-0 e5 8 e4 c6 9 h3... White's ninth move is an 'intention to play Be3.' This and similar sequences demonstrate what an intention is in chess.
bartlebie 53 ( +1 | -1 )
Then let me take another sequence: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Nxe5
White intends to? Move his pawn to d4? Not really can we say that this is his only intention.
Given that you are not a freak who knows the halloween Gambit, how will you get to know your opponents intention when he plays Nxe5? Even if I play it I am of course not fully aware of the implications and so if asked about my intention I would have to say something like "just trying, looks interesting, wanted to play some unboring stuff, perhpaps d4, e5, I don't know, but I have to try".