Learning to take play seriously: Peirce, Bateson, and Huizinga on the sacrality of play

Deborah Eicher-Catt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This paper contextualizes the topic of play as an essential aspect of homo ludens (Huizinga 1949, Homo ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. Abingdon: Routledge). I explore play as an abductive, semiotic process and phenomenological event according to Peirce's categories of experience known as Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. We find that play is an integral aspect of human learning and, in some of its manifestations, can be linked to the sacred dimension of human existence. My method of analysis is to combine the theoretical insights of Charles S. Peirce (particularly his notion of musement as pure play) and communication theorist Gregory Bateson's ideas about serious play in social interactions. We learn to take play seriously given that it simultaneously brings us to the threshold of both ineffability and intelligibility. We also learn something new about the sacrality of human learning as a reflection of what Peirce calls the absolute mind (2010 [1892], The law of mind. In The Peirce Edition Project (eds.), Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A chronological edition, volume 8 [1890-1892], 135-157. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press). I advocate that play and learning are thus sacred or integral to human growth and evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-276
Number of pages18
Issue number212
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Learning to take play seriously: Peirce, Bateson, and Huizinga on the sacrality of play'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this