We Need Play to Learn the Rules of the Game for the Civilization into Which We are Born

The Real Significance of Play.—This scheme is, doubtless, imperfect, as critics of Groos’s book have taken occasion to point out, but the idea which underlies it all is a most suggestive and illuminating one, when rightly understood. In his latest work on the play of man, which has recently appeared, Groos makes clear this point (253, p. 492), when he observes: ‘I presuppose everywhere the existence of innate impulses (Triebe), and assume that these have only led to play-exercise (Spielende Uebung) through the organisation of a period of youth. play will, in general, serve more to tone dowm (abschwachen) instincts already present than to strengthen them or create entirely new ones.’ In his two books Groos has gathered together a vast amount of material in support of this theory, which certainly possesses many merits not belonging to others in the field. Youth was furnished in the order of natural development to the animal as a means of utilising and controlling the wealth of innate instincts and impulses in a new and higher fashion. In a word, animals, and man especially, possess youth because it was necessary to create art (and civilisation) from instincts through the transforming power of play. Childhood is the period in which, by the eminently supple and attractive instrument of play, the natural instincts and impulses, so exuberant and so far-reaching, make possible the normal, healthy, active, ingenious, self-knowing and self-trusting adult. Youth has made possible the passage from the unconsciousness of instinct to the art of civilisation, and play survives sufficiently even in adult life to prevent this art degenerating into a mere mechanism. Just as helplessness in infancy is the guarantee of adult intellect, play in youth is the guarantee of adult morality and culture. The prolongation of infancy in the human race needed as a corollary the activity of youth to secure the wisdom and the strength of mature life. Play may be termed the genius side of instinct, and youth its inspirer. Man had to be young to be civilised; had he no youth and no play he were perpetually a savage.


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 The Child: A Study in the Evolution of Man (Classic Reprint)
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Chamberlain, Alexander Francis (201411), The Child: A Study in the Evolution of Man (Classic Reprint), Retrieved on 2018-07-27
Folksonomies: education pedagogy psychology pediatrics