Philosophy of Play Series

The following collection of edited books on the Philosophy of Play came about following a conference held at the University of Gloucestershire combining the interests of three colleagues: Playworker, Wendy Russell, Historian, Malcolm MacLean and Philosopher, Emily Ryall. The theoretical and conceptual foundations of play were an under-developed area of study and this bi-annual conference and the following publications aimed to bring together scholars across the disciplines to bridge this gap.


MacLean, M., Russell, W., & Ryall, E. (2021) Play, Philosophy and Performance. London: Routledge.

Play, Philosophy and Performance is a cutting-edge collection of essays exploring the philosophy of play. It showcases the most innovative, interdisciplinary work in the rapidly developing field of Play Studies.

How we play, and the relation of play to the human condition, is becoming increasingly recognised as a field of scholarly inquiry as well as a significant element of social practice, public policy and socio-cultural understanding. Drawing on approaches ranging through morality and ethics, language and the nature of reality, aesthetics, digital culture and gaming, and written by an international group of emerging and established scholars, this book examines how our performance at play describes, shapes and influences our performance as human beings.

This is essential reading for anybody with an interest in leisure, education, childhood, gaming, the arts, playwork or many branches of philosophical enquiry.


Russell, W., Ryall, E. & MacLean, M. (2016) The Philosophy of Play as Life. London: Routledge.

It is now widely acknowledged that play is central to our lives. As a phenomenon, play poses important questions of reality, subjectivity, competition, inclusion and exclusion. This international collection is the third in a series of books (including The Philosophy of Play and Philosophical Perspectives on Play) that aims to build paradigmatic bridges between scholars of philosophy and scholars of play.

Divided into four sections (Play as Life, Play as Games, Play as Art and Play as Politics), this book sheds new light on the significance of play for both children and adults in a variety of cultural settings. Its chapters encompass a range of philosophical areas of enquiry such as metaphysics, aesthetics and ethics, and the spectrum of topics explored includes games, jokes, sport and our social relationship with the Internet.

With contributions from established and emerging scholars from around the world, The Philosophy of Play as Life is fascinating reading for all those with an interest in playwork, the ethics and philosophy of sport, childhood studies or the philosophy of education.


MacLean, M. Russell, W. and Ryall, E. (2015) Philosophical Perspectives on Play. London: Routledge.

Philosophical Perspectives on Play builds on the disciplinary and paradigmatic bridges constructed between the study of philosophy and play in The Philosophy of Play(Routledge, 2013) to develop a richer understanding of the concept and nature of play and its relation to human life and value.

Made up of contributions from leading international thinkers and inviting readers to explore the presumptions often attached to play and playfulness, the book considers ways that play in ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ worlds can inform understandings of each, critiquing established norms and encouraging scepticism about the practice and experience of play.

Organised around four central themes — play(ing) at the limits, aesthetics, metaphysics/ontology and ethics — the book extends and challenges notions of play by drawing on issues emerging in sport, gaming, literature, space and art, with specific attention paid to disruption and danger. It is intended to provide scholars and practitioners working in the spheres of play, education, games, sport and related subjects with a deeper understanding of philosophical thought and to open dialogue across these disciplines.


Ryall, E., Russell, W. and MacLean, M. (2013) The Philosophy of Play. London: Routledge.

This is the first edited collection of articles on philosophical issues in play. It begins with conceptual questions about the nature of play, before considering what various philosophers (such as Plato, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Sartre, Deluze and Gadamer) had to say about it. The final section is dedicated to applied issues within play faced by parents, play-workers, children and adult gamers.

“The Philosophy of Play is an excellent and comprehensive anthology of play, and also makes a profound contribution to the field.” (Rasmussen, T. 2014: 245)

“I would recommend this to any scholar of play or philosophy, and sincerely hope those involved in the use of space, in risk, in mental health and in education will also take an interest. To play physically or mentally, with a chess set, a ball or in conversation, is (paraphrasing the authors represented throughout The philosophy of play) to be fully human.” (Prisk, C. 2013: 155)

“[B]y accommodating various metaphysical, epistemological, ontological, and ethical perspectives on play, the editors have done an excellent job illustrating the expansiveness of the field whilst still highlighting a number of specific issues relevant to contemporary philosophies of play. In a way the collection contains something for anyone interested in the subject of play, whether it is children’s play, game play, or language play, it is a kind of ‘grab-bag’ containing numerous short, yet thoughtful, and well written, philosophical explorations of play.” (Pedri, J. 2014: 413-415)