Ellbur/Philosophy Of Go

Sub-page of Ellbur

The purpose of this page is to explain ideas which I have alluded to on other philosophy pages.

First, some initial statements that cannot be disputed:

Go is a game of strategy.

Assuming perfect play there is no element of chance.

The rules of Go are unambiguous and simple.

General Observations on the Game

From the rules of Go, it is possible to create the strategy of Go. Although the rules are simple, the strategy, as we know it at present, is very complicated.

This is because the rules must be applied to every board position to determine the possible moves. This creates a recursive system, which is naturally complicated and difficult to understand.

With sufficient information about the board positions, perfect, imperfect, and worst play may be deduced. If these were known by humans, there would be no point to the general strategy that is currently applied to Go.

All position of the game, and thus the complete strategy, may be deduced from the simple rules. Regardless of how complicated the game may become, the rules that govern play and strategy are simple and unambiguous, easily comprehended by people.

Therefore, enough information to communicate everything that can be known about Go is contained in the rules.

Positions in a Go game and sequences of moves appear very complicated.

An observer, not knowing the rules, in order to make sense of these positions, would need to comprehend a very large amount of information.

To an observer knowing the rules but not all of the board positions, in order to comprehend complicated positions requires the comprehension of a very large amount of information, as positions, even with knowledge of the rules, are very complicated.

This is why there appear to be many mysterious and confusing aspects of Go. Even the greatest of Go players do not know sufficient board positions to discover complete strategy.

We try to learn incomplete strategy of Go by searching for patterns.

There is no initial guarantee that patterns exist.

We therefore must search very hard to see in what form these patterns do exist.

A situation may arise in which the patterns we know are not applicable. We may search for a pattern. If we do not find one, it is possible that a useful pattern does not exist.

For situations where a useful pattern does not exist, it is meaningless to search for a reason why this situation is the way it is.

For the purpose of communication, I make a clear distinction between 'proof', a set of logical ideas to show the relationship between to statements, and 'reason', a pattern which may be generalized over a given situation.

This makes the first statement of this section trivial.

There exists a proof for the properties of a situation for which there is no reason. There is no reason why the proof should follow any patterns or be in the least meaningful or useful for comprehending or simplifying the situation.

If we somehow find a situation in the real or abstract world which can be described by rules identical to those of Go, then the strategy of Go may be applied completely and perfectly to that situation.

If the strategy of Go may be applied completely and perfectly to a situation, then the rules of Go may be applied to the situation. This is not to say that the rules describe the entire situation, as they will only describe the aspects of the situation to which the strategy of Go may be applied.

Therefore, any situation which may be entirely described by either the rules or the strategy of Go is equivalent to Go.

Such situations may be considered no different than Go itself, and all truth applicable to Go will apply to such situations.

All truth that is applicable to Go may be deduced from the rules. This statement is largely redundant, but it benefits from being stated.

Therefore, All truth that is not derived from the rules is irrelevant.

Inductive Reasoning in Go

In Go, inductive reasoning is used to find patterns. These patterns may be used to form imperfect strategy. They could also be used as the basis for any speculation on the nature of the game.

Patterns are not assumed to be perfect. There may be exceptions. There may be no patterns. The patterns may be too complicated to comprehend. Fortunately, this does not seem to be the case with Go.

There is never one correct pattern to fit a given set of results.

The finding of patterns is done by the area of thought that is used to derive information from the world, not that which is used for logic. Patterns, therefore, are very specific to our own human minds.

All of what we know of imperfect strategy we know from patterns. All of what we know of perfect strategy we do not know from patterns. That which we do know of perfect strategy is very small at present, encompassing only small regions of the board, simpler positions, and small boards.

There are limits to the use of inductive reasoning.

The use of patterns is insufficient to prove any property of the game, create perfect strategy, or develop a philosophy of the game.

Imperfect Strategy

As stated above, imperfect strategy is strategy determined by the existence of patterns that we are able to see in the game.

In this case, strategy is rules that we may apply to one position to determine the results of the game in future positions.

That the strategy is imperfect is to say that the sequences that it would determine are not necessarily those that perfect strategy would determine.

The application of imperfect strategy to the game is never a philosophy of the game.

Playing by imperfect strategy leads to many difficult or paradoxical situations.

The most significant effect of imperfect strategy is that it removes the complete knowledge that a player must have about the game to make it free of chance.

This makes a clear distinction between the players. Unlike in perfect strategy, where the players are merely titles for the moves they make, in imperfect strategy every player has unique knowledge of the game.

Because the players are distinct in their knowledge of the game, some imperfect strategies may become better or worse depending on the player that plays them and the player that plays against them.

It may not be known which imperfect strategies are superior under these conditions. This is another source of luck in the game.

This also creates a new imperfect strategy: giving yourself situations that your imperfect strategy says will allow your imperfect strategy better luck.

Luck should not be considered the same as mathematical probability. Luck is the action of the mind to determine, using inductive reasoning, the relative likelihood of an event.

Assume that the goal of each player in Go is to have the difference between their score and their opponents score to be the greatest in their favor. The actual goal of players may vary, but that is irrelevant to what will follow. I use this method because it is what I believe most players would follow. Any method that yields transitive results for each player will be sufficient for this argument.

If the players use imperfect strategy, and are consciously aware that their opponent is using imperfect strategy, there may be situations that cause a paradoxical strategy for a player. This is not a true contradiction in the strategy of the game as imperfect strategies are based purely on patterns that the mind interprets.

The most obvious situation in Go that would yield paradoxical imperfect strategy is the use of an overplay.

It may be that one player can gain significantly from a particular move that deviates from perfect strategy if their opponent does not respond correctly.

This puts a player in the situation that to find the best result they must know the strategy of their opponent.

This is an integration of factors that do not derive from the rules. It is therefore irrelevant to the pure game of Go, but is worth stating.

The correct action of a player in this situation is dependant of sociology, not philosophy, and is therefore irrelevant to the content of this page.

Ellbur/Philosophy Of Go last edited by Ellbur on March 19, 2004 - 02:29
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