By Gerda Reith

This attention-grabbing and broad learn, enlivened through interviews with British and American gamblers, could be enchanting analyzing not only for these attracted to the cultural and social implications of playing - researchers in sociology, cultural reviews and the heritage of principles - yet for someone attracted to how we create that means in an more and more insecure global.

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Extra info for Age of Chance: Gambling in Western Culture (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought, Number 22)

Sample text

Strikingly, in ancient, classical and ‘primitive’ thought, there was no such thing as chance! The random event was everywhere regarded as a sacred sign of the gods which, although meaningless in itself, could be interpreted to reveal a more profound message from the transcendent ‘beyond’. In such worldviews, various forms of divination and fortune-telling were utilised as means of communicating with the realm of the sacred, and were also often inseparable from the recreational pursuit of games of chance.

In the analysis of popular games THE IDEA OF CHANCE 29 they found empirical examples of randomness in action, and from the conclusions they drew and applied to the world in general we can see the embodiment of the dominant Enlightenment attitude to chance. Just as in earlier times games of chance had functioned as a stage upon which the favours of the gods were enacted, in the seventeenth century gambling games once again acted as a stage upon which this time scientific, rather than sacred, dramas were played out.

No design or providence was recognised in the universe, and everything that existed could be explained by the random motions of atoms in empty space (Epicurus 1990, p. 314). In Roman philosophy, Cicero rejected the view of chance as an aspect of divine providence, and wrote On Fate, On Divination and On the Nature of the THE IDEA OF CHANCE 21 Gods to deny the efficacy of divination and determinism, which he could not reconcile with his views of human freedom. In Book II of De Divinatiore, an understanding of what would later be known as the law of large numbers is evident: Nothing is so uncertain as the cast of dice, and yet there is no one who plays often who does not sometimes make a Venus-throw5 and occasionally twice or thrice in succession.

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Age of Chance: Gambling in Western Culture (Routledge by Gerda Reith
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