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The Art of War

Started by droqen, May 21, 2024, 12:10:51 PM

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regarding Sun Tzu's
"The Art of War"

reading announced here i guess: https://x.com/droqen/status/1792965930001002595


i could not explain the direct link but i came to the conclusion immediately after reading sylviefluff's "Because My Heart Is Illegible"


first of all, i skipped the introduction by tom butler-bowdon. who needs a preface these days. not me!


i've read through the whole book (the main actual book, The Art of War, not the bonus post-book, Sayings by Wu) and am now reflecting back.


in general, there are a few things i've taken away from this book... that are not specifically about the thought that sparked my desire to read it in the first place. i'll have to return to that thought and examine it through the lens of the art of war. this stuff, though, is good to hold onto.

QuoteNow the object of war is victory; not lengthy operations, even skilfully[sic] conducted.

The good general is the lord of the people's lives, the guardian of the country's welfare.

I quoted this to jack today when speaking of my (personal) response to Snow Game, in particular I think I thought of the idea of victory, as well as thinking of "people's lives" and "the country's welfare." Silly things, maybe, for a game designer to be concerned with.

Here, though, I wish to focus somewhat on "victory; not lengthy operations" -- of course, part of this is my ADHD speaking, but this appeals to me a great deal, and it is a theme returned to time & again throughout the book. To have a goal, to pursue it without wasting time. And in particular to have a '''real''' goal.

Sun Tzu speaks earlier of "The virtue of the prince" and here (already quoted) of "people's lives" and "the country's welfare." They are not given an explicit link, but I believe they both speak to having a legitimate purpose behind one's actions. Victory is not a simple matter of stating and achieving goals, victory involves achieving something meaningful. Virtuous.

Of course, we are speaking of war, here. I'll get more into that later.


Like The One-Straw Revolution, The Art of War functions as a handbook containing a significant amount of practical and specific information regarding a particular discipline and its scenarios and features.

It is very easy to read them as poetic or metaphorical according to the vagueness of their wording. I make no claim about how they ought to be received, but see how this may be read either as precise advice applicable to a narrow domain, or generically interpretable advice applicable to a broad one:

QuoteIf desirous of attacking an army; of besieging a fortress; or of killing a certain person; first of all, learn the names of the general in charge; of his right-hand men; of those who introduce visitors to the Presence; of the gate keeper and the entries. Then set the spies to watch them.
(The Employment of Spies, p99)

QuoteOpen ground is that where either side has liberty of movement: be quick to occupy any high ground in the neighbourhood and consider well the line of supplies.
(Ground, p68)