Thursday, December 24, 2009

Intellectual Muscle

Intellectual Muscle is an eclectic series of talks by prominent and up-and-coming Canadian intellectuals on topics related to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Public lectures will be delivered at universities across Canada and made available online in podcast form. The online program will include polls, discussion forums and other interactive features, providing Canadians with a unique opportunity to participate in a series of national dialogues.

Intellectual Muscle, developed by Vancouver 2010 and the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with universities across Canada and The Globe and Mail, will run from September 2009 until the end of the Games in March 2010.

(Thanks to Gabriela Tymowski for the link.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

IAPS Session at APA New York December 28

International Association for Philosophy of Sport Session
at The American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Meeting
New York Marriott Marquis
Monday, December 28 9:00-11:00 a.m.
Chair: Heather Reid (Morningside College)
Speakers: David Charlton (Western Michigan University) “Winning Isn’t Everything: How the Monetary Structure of the BCS May Provide an Incentive to Lose”
David O’Hara (Augustana College) “Sport, Religion, and Value: Considering the Possibility of Renewing an Ancient Connection”
Steffen Borge (University of Tromsø–Norway) “Towards a Taxonomy of Sports”
***Participants, IAPS members attending the conference, and anyone else interested in the philosophy of sport are invited to join us for lunch at a nearby restaurant immediately after the session***

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Attractiveness and Victory?

As if winning at an elite level was not already hard enough, it appears that there may be some sort of relationship between physical attractiveness and victory. (HT: Rob Sica for making me aware of this.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Federation Inefficace de Frivole Impuissant

But the backdrops peel and the sets give way and the cast get eaten by the play, there’s a murderer at the matinee, there are dead men in the aisles... And the patrons and the actors too are uncertain if the show is through, and with sidelong looks await their cue... But the frozen mask just smiles.
“The Vicious Cabaret”, Alan Moore – V for Vendetta

If there exists a divine comedy in sport today, it must surely be football. Okay, perhaps not ‘divine’, and not football the game you understand, but Football the Theatre. All the world’s a stage for the slapstick ineptitudes of FIFA, UEFA and their assembled minions, and unlike the World Wrestling Federation, they seem not to realize it. To its credit, the WWF at least challenges the proverbial idea of a lack of honour amongst thieves. And at least what Vince McMahon says, goes. No such luck at Football’s Cirque du So Lame.

Arsenal’s Eduardo was recently banned from European competition for diving to win a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League. Arsene Wenger (and no small number of other people) then complained that banning Eduardo in that way sets a dangerous precedent; the UEFA Igors would then have to watch every competitive match played in Europe in order to punish other players in a similar fashion. The unerring logic of this didn’t escape UEFA twice, and it overturned the ban it had imposed on Eduardo.

Chelsea were recently banned from signing new players until 2011 after it emerged that they had induced French teenager Gael Kakuta to sign with them illegally, breaking the terms of his contract with French club Lens. The Court of Arbitration for Sport has subsequently suspended the ban.

And finally, Sir Alex Ferguson was fined £20,000 and handed a four-match (two suspended) touchline ban for calling referee Alan Wiley “unfit” during Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland in October. That equates to about a quarter of a week’s wages and the inability to sit next to his assistant during the games. He can, however, sit behind the dugout, all of three extra feet away from his squad.

In the immortal words of Derek Zoolander, “WHAT IS THIS?” A toothless sports association following a policy of appeasement on all fronts in an effort to maintain the illusion of its necessity, or an honest collective struggling under the weight of expectation in the modern version of the world’s game? As the football powers-that-be continue to struggle to make head or tails of the diving problem, the respect problem, the technology problem and the money problem, what emerges from the Stella Gallery is a strangled cry for a rational decision unfettered by the interests of billionaire owners or megalomaniac managers and a myriad of clowns and jugglers. Stop the music, kill the laugh track... and please, Madam Justice, take off that ridiculous wig.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Criticisms of Philosophy of Sport

In the past year, I've encountered the view that philosophy of sport is not "real philosophy," meaning, I take it, that sport is not a topic worthy of philosophical reflection, or that it is not "philosophically interesting." This got me to thinking that I'd like to read a good defense of philosophy of sport against such charges. However, I've been unable to find an extended defense. So, I'm thinking about writing one, and this post is a call for assistance. I'd like to know any references in print that criticize or dismiss philosophy of sport. I don't think there are many in print, as it is more of an attitude that many hold rather than something they have written about. However, if you're aware of any, please post in comments or email me directly (mikedotaustinatsymbolekudotedu).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sports and Political Philosophy (Really!)

Joe Posnanski, a columnist for the Kansas City Star and now a Sports Illustrated contributor, discusses Michael Sandel's new book and some Kant as well at this post on his blog. Joe was kind enough to write the foreword for Football and Philosophy: Going Deep. And he's one of my favorite sportswriters.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baseball is a Higher Pleasure

Readers of this blog might be interested in a recent post at my blog that discusses the attitude of philosophers towards philosophy of sport.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IAPS 2010 Call for Papers

The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport invites the submission of abstracts to be considered for presentation at the 38th annual 2010 IAPS meeting. The conference will be held in Rome, Italy between September 15-19, 2010. Abstracts are welcome on any area of philosophy of sport, including metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics and ethics, and from any theoretical approach, including analytic philosophy and critical theory. In addition to abstracts for papers, proposals for round table and panel discussions, including a tentative list of participants, are also welcome and should follow the same format as paper abstracts. Graduate students and emerging scholars are encouraged to submit works in progress. Abstracts should be 300-500 words long (in either English or Italian) and must be received by April 1, 2010. The preferred mode of submission is by e-mail. Please send the abstract as an attachment, preferably in Word. Contributors who do not have access to e-mail should feel free to send a hard copy instead. Please submit e-mail copies of abstracts to the Conference Chair at:

Please send hard copies (only if e-mail is not available) to:

Doug Hochstetler
Associate Professor of Kinesiology

Penn State University, Lehigh Valley
2809 Saucon Valley Road
Center Valley, PA 18034

Abstracts will be reviewed by a Program Committee of three IAPS peers. Contributors will be notified about the status of their abstracts by May 14, 2010.

See the IAPS website for additional conference details.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Call for Abstracts: British Philosophy of Sport Association

British Philosophy of Sport Association
Annual Conference 2010

Call for abstracts

Venue: Centre for Applied Ethics, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Dates: 25th to 27th March 2010

Conference fee (including conference dinner): £120

Titles and abstracts (300-500 words) should be sent to Dr. Andrew Edgar,
( by 8th January 2010. Abstracts should be sent as email
attachments in a format readable by Microsoft Word. Notification of
acceptance or rejection will be given to individuals by the end of January

Delegates will have 20 minutes for presentation, with an additional 10
minutes for discussion.

Further details will be announced at a later date.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"A Mirror of our Culture: Sport and Society in America" conference

See here for conference information. This conference is sponsored by St. Norbert College and the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. And that is no typo! Abstract submissions are due November 30th, 2009.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Upon Further Review

An article on College Football News, by Matt Zemek, discusses some of the philosophical issues related to instant replay. Scroll down to section 3.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rooting for U. S. Steel

I had a good weekend. The NY Yankees clinched the American League East, and the NY Giants shut out Tampa Bay.

I've been a Yankee fan since childhood, but even as my interest has waxed and waned over the years, I am happy when they do well.

It was said during the 1950s that "rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U. S. Steel." Which got me wondering why people choose to root for the underdog.

There are some tentative explanations on the web: and

But I am wondering how philosophers of sport think about the question . . . why do we root for the underdog? Should we root for the underdog?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Diving and the Integrity of Soccer

Cesar Torres, the current president of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, has this piece for the NY Times on the integrity of soccer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Publication Announcement: Philosophical Perspectives on Gender in Sport and Physical Activity

Edited by Paul Davis, Charlene Weaving

There are a broad variety of sex and gender resonances in sport, from the clash of traditional ideas of femininity and athleticism represented by female athletes, to the culture of homophobia in mainstream male sport. Despite the many sociological and cultural volumes addressing these subjects, this collection is the first to focus on the philosophical writings that they have inspired. The editors have selected twelve of the most thought-provoking philosophical articles on these subjects from the past 30 years, to create a valuable and much needed resource.

Written by established experts from all over the world, the essays in this collection cover four major themes:

* sport and the construction of the female
* objectification and the sexualisation of sport
* homophobia
* sex boundaries: obstruction, naturalisation and opposition.

The book gathers a broad range of philosophical viewpoints on gender in sport into one unique source, subjecting the philosophical origins and characteristics of some of the most controversial topics in sport to rigorous scrutiny. With a balance of male and female contributors from both sides of the Atlantic, and a comprehensive introduction and postscript to contextualise the source material, Philosophical Perspectives on Gender in Sport and Physical Activity is essential reading for all students of the philosophy of sport, sport and gender, and feminist philosophy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Has the Science of Sport Outpaced Philosophy of Sport?

Last Sunday's New York Times included a very interesting essay by Alice Dreger (reprinted at this link) that accuses sport philosphers of lagging behind sport scientists. She concludes that we need to reach consensus on what sport is really all about before we can adequately address such issues as sterioid use and sex determination.

She may be right to criticize sport philosophy for our lack of new thinking on such issues, but we may also have more to contribute than first appears. First of all, there is a fairly wide consensus in the sport philosophy community that sports are sets of rules that set lusory goals (i.e. an object of the game, such as arriving at the finish line) and at the same time prohibit the most efficient means of achieving such goals (i.e. by crossing the track or riding a motorcycle).

At our recent IAPS conference in Seattle, and especially as part of Sigmund Loland's keynote address, it was noted that the bans on drugs are, first of all, a prohibited efficiency. The rationale for prohibiting these efficiencies and not others revolves around a desire to promote training activities associated with the positive holistic adaptation of human beings. Traditionally, the training activities promoted are associated with human virtues, and those prohibited are not. Although steroids may produce strength, their use is neither a form of training nor associated with virtue. Sex classes and other similar conventions are designed to exclude performance factors that are not "trainable" (such as sex). Professor Loland's arguments (which I may or may not have summarized correctly here) do provide a framework that at least begins to address Alice Dreger's very relevant concerns.

In the end, though, she is right. We sport philosophers need to communicate more clearly our ideas on "what sport is all about" and what implications this should have for how it is practiced. To be sure, we will not all agree on these questions, but we should make more of an effort to communicate with sport scientists and with the public more generally.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Update on Semenya

The case of of Caster Semenya and the insensitivity of the IAAF was discussed in this post. Now Semenya has been "made over" by a South African magazine and is a "cover girl". This would seem to only exacerbate the problems first raised by her case.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Conference Announcement

Mark your calendars and start thinking about a paper to submit, if you're so inclined, for a conference in philosophy of sport:

"Philosophical Dimensions of Sport & the Environment"
St. Francis Xavier University
May, 2011

Monday, August 24, 2009

PhD Opportunity in the Ethico-legal aspects of Anti-Doping

Institute for Health Research

2009 Fully-funded PhD Studentships

At the Institute for Health Research, our research into the health and social sciences builds on our belief that high quality, high impact research must be based on strong collaborations with the community, the service sector and with centers within the University and beyond. In doing so we are able to drive forward the inter-disciplinary research necessary to provide real benefits to patients and other healthcare service users throughout the local, regional, national and international communities.

Ethico-legal Aspects of Anti-doping

An excellent opportunity has arisen for an outstanding graduate to work towards a PhD through an investigation in the ethico-legal aspects of anti-doping policy and practice. This may cover one or more of the following:
· Athlete’s rights in relation to anti-doping policy and practice (possibly in the context of the development of a new UK National Anti Doping Organisation)
· Ethico-legal critique of WADA’s new code
· Ethico-legal aspects of genetic enhancement
· Ethico-legal aspects of sports physicians in relation to doping
· Ethico-legal aspects of intelligence-led doping testing
· Harm-minisation versus punative approaches to anti-doping
· Privacy and the Whereabouts policy

The topic of the actual studentship will be negotiated with the successful applicant. In the first instance applicants should provide a two page outline of their proposed research idea.

Please also note that all studentships have the following eligibility requirements:

  • Only available to UK/EU applicants.
  • Applicants must have a minimum of a 2.1 degree. A Masters qualification in a relevant discipline would be an advantage. (Applicants holding qualifications from non-UK institutions will be expected to hold a qualification equivalent to a 2.1 UK honours degree or a UK Masters).
  • Applications are open to new PhD students from all Universities who wish to study Full-Time.

If you are interested in applying for any of these studentships then please submit a covering letter identifying which studentship you are interested in, and include a CV detailing research experience to-date, scientific interests and at least two references. This should be accompanied by any additional application documentation outlined in the synopses below. Successful applicants will then be asked to complete a University postgraduate application form at a later stage. The closing date for applications is 4th September 2009.

All applications should be sent to Mrs Karin Terry, Institute for Health Research, School of Health Science, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP or by email to

Once we have processed all applications and have an indication of preference we will contact you with a possible date for interview. Should you progress to this stage interviews are scheduled for September and the studentships will commence early October 2009.

Should you have any queries about the studentships available then please contact the listed PhD supervisor or Dr Ian Pepper (

FUNDER: Institute for Health Research, School of Health Science, Swansea University

STIPEND: £13,000 per year & fees

PhD Supervisor: Prof. Mike McNamee (

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wikiversity on Philosophy of Sport

This is of interest as a brief account of the history, current state, and future of philosophy of sport.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

IAAF accused of insensitivity over Semenya statement

Hours prior to the women's 800 meter final, the IAAF released a statement asking South Africa to determine the gender of their athlete, Caster Semenya. Semenya had already breezed through the semi-finals and was expecting a podium position in the final, but the timing of the IAAF statement was heavily criticised as wholly insensitive and unnecessary. The IAAF conceded that questioning the sex of an athlete is a very difficult issue but they appeared to demonstrate further insensitivity to Semenya by suggesting that she hasn't been accused of cheating as she may be unaware that she is not female.

Whether Semenya was aware of the media furore that was being created over the IAAF statement is not known, and fortunately it didn't appear to have a detrimental effect on her result in the final as she finished first, a full two seconds ahead of her nearest rival. But the effect that the statement and interest subsequently generated from it is sure to cause concern, not least to Semenya herself. Since sex and gender, in our society, is one of the most fixed categories since birth and one of the fundamental tenets of our identity (nearly everything we do is labelled by our gender) to cast aspersions on it is to challenge the very core of who we are. This whole case, unfortunately, highlights the problem with maintaining the binary categories of male and female; categories challenged recently by Gerald Callahan in 'Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the myth of two sexes'. Callahan provides solid evidence that sex is a spectrum not a binary (or tri, if you want to include hermaphrodites) category. Taking Callahan's argument seriously would cause serious problems for international sport which relies heavily upon the premise that only two sexes exist. This accounts for the IAAFs awkward and clumsy defence of their statement when faced with what they view as a someone who doesn't fit the 'standard' mould.

This case highlights two issues; first, the problems that occur when we divide the world into fixed categories leaving no space for grey areas in between, and second, and more importantly, the insensitivity that is created when a real, feeling, human being is questioned over a core part of their identity based on such interminable categories. The IAAF needs to realise that whatever their rules and world view, athletes should still be treated with the respect and dignity that all sentient beings deserve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Twilight: The Rugby Chronicles

[Above: Vampire pin-up Tom Williams]
“They say that in war truth be the first casualty”
- Zack de la Rocha, One Day As A Lion: Wild International (with apologies to Aeschylus)
Dean Richards, former director of rugby at Harlequins has just been banned from coaching at a European level for three years. He “masterminded” a few (we can’t be sure how many) fake blood injuries for tactical reasons, the most notable being that of young Harlequins’ player Tom Williams.

Right, so he’s a cheat, he’s banned, good. But hearing former England captain Will Carling discuss the issue, one would swear we – coaches, athletes, sports media, starving refugees, the world – are just the victims of circumstance. God rolled the dice and we lost. I’ll just discuss three of Carling’s obfuscations.

“I’m shocked. But we must remember, rugby is played by human beings who sometimes overstep the mark.” (aka Poor Dean Richards syndrome)

Rugby, like war, is a business, the bottom line of which is winning. Richards was doing all he could to win. Moral outrage, much less surprise, should not take pride of place in a society that worships the primacy of performance. I don’t see the BBC doing 15-minute specials on the machinations and intrigues of an unjust war (by the way, how many young British men and women have to die before someone in the House of Lords asks exactly why democracy in Afghanistan is so damn important to everyone?). I would suggest (ala Mark Rowlands) that the real reason we feign surprise and indignation is that we can’t believe we were taken in (“And did you see how bright the “blood” coming out of that boy Williams’ mouth was?”)… And we can’t believe he got caught. In that sense, Carling’s words are almost Gandhian. We’re all human beings, so we get angry when one of us gets caught at it. Damn it Dean you moron, couldn’t you have been cleverer?

“I feel so sorry for Tom Williams. He’s just a young lad, and as we all know, when your boss at work tells you to do something, you do it.” (aka Poor Tom Williams syndrome)

A list of things your boss may have said to you:
“Undo these staples.”
“Phone [disgruntled customer’s name] and tell her about the delay.”
“If the fees negotiator calls, tell him we don’t do rebates. But if he threatens legal action, obviously we can make an exception.”
“If the fees negotiator calls, tell him I’m not in.”
“Put this fake blood capsule in your sock, and if we need you to, slip it into your mouth and bite.”
“Go to a country you have never heard of and kill people you’ve never seen for reasons you do not need to know.”

A list of everyday sacrificial items:
Clean air, factual and impartial media, etc

[Say loudly, and with a gusto that demonstrates how much respect you have for The Rules] “This will carry on unless Rugby wakes up and changes the rules! We don’t want to tarnish the great name of rugby etc.” (aka Poor Rugby syndrome)

Yes. That darn slippy “No Cheating” rule. Perhaps we should just print it twice, like the rules of Fight Club:

The First Rule Is: Do Not Cheat.
The Second Rule Is: Um…Do Not Cheat.
But Will raises an important existential question: How do you litigate a human nature frayed and distorted by a lust for the top spot on the podium, a psychology perverted by the impression that We Must Always Win? How indeed, Will.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bradley Wiggins Blood Profiles

Over the past year or two, I've become much more interested in the sport of cycling. And I've become a fan of the Garmin-Slipstream team, for several reasons. One of those reasons is their explicit, public, and verifiable commitment to "clean cycling." Of course, it's no secret that one of the big revelations of the Tour de France was the emergence of Bradley Wiggins as a serious stage racer demonstrated by his overall 4th place finish. In light of the anti-doping stance taken by Wiggins and his team, his blood profiles have been made public. I wonder if this is the path other sports will have to take to retain their fans, at least the ones who care about whether or not their favorite athletes and teams are using performance-enhancing substances. This does raise issues related to the privacy of athletes, and of course there is the problem of techniques that can evade detection, but I wonder if the integrity of sport will require this sort of thing, as long as the bans against doping are in place?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Michael Vick's Second Chance

For a time, Michael Vick was one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch in the National Football League. Many thought he would redefine the position. Of course, since then his moral and legal troubles have been widely reported on and discussed ad nauseam. Vick has now been reinstated in the NFL on a conditional basis, with full reinstatement a possibility. Professional athletes commit all sorts of crimes, and are allowed to play. I'm interested in what people think about Vick and any other athlete who is convicted of a serious (i.e. harmful to other sentient beings) felony. It seems that the current commissioner of the NFL has a policy of being more strict, so to speak, about these sorts of cases, though he has conditionally reinstated Vick. Why might the NFL be justified in not reinstating Vick, or athletes convicted of assault, spousal abuse, and so on?

Monday, July 20, 2009

37th Annual Meeting of IAPS

Information about the upcoming conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport can be found here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Tour de France Radio Ban

VeloNews has an article on the growing opposition to the ban on race radios for 2 stages, including tomorrow's stage from Limoges to Issoudon. According to the article, "Two-way radios were first introduced into the peloton by Armstrong’s former Motorola squad in the 1990s and have become a crucial element of team tactics; managers communicate with riders, who race with earpieces, to advise on strategy, approaching hazards and other important information." Critics complain about the predictability that the radios foster regarding race tactics.

On other hand, Lance Armstrong states that “Technology evolves, the bike evolves, the training, the diet, everything evolves… the fabrics that we wear. Look at [reporters’] cameras, the microphones… the transponders on the bike… all of it has evolved. So we are going to go back to a place where directors will have to ride up into the peloton to give orders to riders. That is not a good thing. I remember those days, I have been around long enough to remember them, and that is stupid too. A few of the guys think it is a cute idea, but I don't agree.”
Others who support using the radios argue that it keeps the riders safe, as an oil spot on a treacherous descent can be pointed out and injuries thereby avoided.

In response to these points, consider Matt White's view (White is team director for Garmin-Slipstream):
"I’d rather we banned radios. I don’t mind if we lost radios altogether. We go through the stage everyday in the morning, and what I am telling them on the radio is only what I’ve told them in the morning, just reminding them. The Garmin units have nothing to do with the radios; we have more information on their bikes than in their ear anyways… The only difference (without radios) is that I’m not telling them in the race. We have the same tactics, the same plan before, and the boys have to think and act themselves. That’s like cycling was 10 years ago. Whatever the Tour decides, just go with it. I think it’s a bit strange doing one day. I’d rather do no radios or all radios, but as for safety issues, I don’t really see that as a problem either. The amount of times you actually tell riders there is something dangerous on the road it just creates more stress because everyone knows about it. The guys are riding five or six hours a day, you can’t point out every dangerous bit of the road, so I don’t think it’s a real safety issue. I think some of the younger guys have struggled thinking about it. They are so used to being told what to do, they aren’t used to thinking for themselves, and I think that’s going to hurt some teams more than others."

I tend to agree with White, mainly because I'd like to see the riders demonstrate some of the intellectual aspects of athletic excellence that the radios can at least sometimes prevent. But perhaps this could still occur if the riders are involved in strategy sessions prior to the race, and simply communicating with their directors about which strategy to follow given the particular circumstances that arise in a given stage?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Consent and potentially harmful acts

During last weekend's British and Irish Lions match against South Africa, Schalk Burger, the Springbok flanker, was sent to the sin bin for attempting to eye gouge Lions wing, Luke Fitzgerald. Burger has since received an eight week ban from the international governing body who deem it as one of the most unacceptable and dangerous actions a player can carry out in the game. Yet Peter De Villiers, the Springbok coach, appeared to make comments that justified Burger's actions. He retorted to those complaining about the over-aggressiveness of the South African players which also left Lions prop, Adam Jones with a dislocated shoulder from a dangerous tackle, "why don't we all go to the nearest ballet shop and get some nice tutus, get a great dancing show going on, no eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing and then we will all enjoy it. There will be collisions in rugby and I will always pick the hardest guy. If people want to make it soft because we won a series, I cannot do anything about it." (Rees, The Guardian)

Whilst De Villiers has been condemned for seeming to condone foul, and potentially very harmful play, arguably the issue behind all of this is not the manner of the action but the matter of consent. Although there are those that would take a paternalistic stance and say that individuals should not be allowed to consent to the possibility of being eye-gouged, the libertarian position states that if 'rational' 'autonomous' adults do agree to be party to such things then that is their perrogative. So for those players that wish to punch, bite and eye gouge they should be free to participate in a sport that allows such things. In the same way, individuals who do not wish to be tackled or the recipient of other physical contact (as defined according to the laws of rugby) should not play that game (they may, as De Villiers suggested, wish to go dancing instead). The relevant issue here is that in the sport of rugby, players are not consenting to being on the receiving end of particular actions like the one received by Fitzgerald and therefore it is wholly unacceptable for any player to carry (or attempt to carry) those actions out. Rather than encouraging foul and dangerous play (in a win-at-all-cost mentality), coaches have a moral duty to ensure that their players recognise that the matter of consent is intrinsic both to the good of the game and to the development of themselves as moral citizens. This is why De Villiers' comments were tasteless at best, and immoral at worst.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reith Lecture on Genetic Technology in Sport

The BBC's annual Reith Lectures are presented this year by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel and the third programme in the series covers the ethical dilemmas posed by innovations in genetic technology, including the use of this technology in sport.

(This is an issue in which I have particular interest, having written my PhD thesis, entitled 'Genetic Techology in Sport; Metaphor and Ethical Judgment', on the subject)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Pinnacle of Existence? Death and Art on the Isle of Man

John Crellin raced past me as I sat at Greeba Bridge. Minutes later, he was dead.
“Found him about 100 yards from his bike”, says Dave, one of the marshals. “He was just lying there twitching.”

The Isle of Man TT motorbike race kills people. On average, more than one person will die every year. Sometimes, even marshals are killed. This year there was only one death, but also a handful of serious accidents that landed some unlucky riders in intensive care. Despite the obvious risk I let Dave and John, another marshal, take me around the course on the back of John’s 1000cc Honda Fireblade (a slightly tweaked version of which was ridden by this year’s overall winner, John McGuiness). If I had come off at140 miles an hour on the narrow mountain road…well, I didn’t.

“You don’t think about coming off”, says no. 48 Tommy Montano, “I knowingly take the risk when I get on the bike. What else would I do, bowls?” You do get the sense that these speed freaks are souls in harmony. Sure, they race for the win, for adrenalin and prestige. But there is more to it. They simply must do this. But if they accept the risk to themselves, what about their responsibilities to others, what about their families?
“Yeah, sometimes I do say to myself, you gotta slow down Tommy. And I am. I can’t beat the kids any more. They push too hard. You come back here, you make friends, it’s just a great event. But I’m almost done.”

And then there is the quest for the perfect lap. Going smooth. Not fighting the bike. The TT demands respect, but also intimate knowledge of every turn, wall and rise. This is knowledge that none of the bikers share. Popular opinion is that you need to race in the TT for four or five years before you can even think about competing. The smoothest riders know the course like a lover, and it is a superlative aesthetic experience to watch them move.

A lot of people have called for the TT race to be stopped because, well, people die. But I don’t think that is a good enough argument. “As soon as there is life there is danger”, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. If celebrating life means accepting the ever-presence of death, so be it.

My ride was exhilarating. I had what Tyler Durden refers to as a “Near-life Experience”. Graham, an oil-rig worker from Inverness calls it “The Pinnacle of Existence”. Rudi, a social worker from Belgium, agrees: “If I die on my bike, I die with my boots on.”
“Yeah,” says Graham somberly, “there is death here.”
Rudi looks at me.“And art,” he says.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why I love Transworld Sport...

Many of my first year undergraduate students are baffled by the time dedicated to considering the concept of 'sport' and its relationship to 'games', 'leisure', 'play', 'recreation' and other concepts. "Of course we know what sport is, we don't need to spend weeks thinking about it" they often lament, as I discuss the notion of conceptual analysis, ostensive definitions, and necessary and sufficient conditions. And unfortunately that's often the response from even the most engaged of students. The others simply shrug their shoulders as if to say, "Why would I care whether something is sport or not?"

There are two prongs of response to such apathy: one, it is an attempt to give some indication of philosophic methods - methods which I fear are severely neglected in many courses on research methods. Definition of terms is crucial in any exegesis of a problem or issue in order to ensure that what you are trying to study is really what you are studying, as well as to ensure that others are clear as to what you are talking about and mean when you use particular concepts.
Two, from a more practical and pragmatic point of view, there are people (who may, in the future, be my former students) who are tasked with the responsibility of deciding whether a particular activity fulfils particular criteria to be allocated funding or a place in an event (such as the Olympic games). Decisions have to be rationalised and justified to other parties (i.e. the public, Governments, the media) and it would simply not be acceptable for such judgements to be made on a whimsical subjective preference.

So where does
Transworld Sport come in to all of this? For those of you that are not familiar with the television programme, it is the broadest and most global sports broadcast that exists. For instance, the programme I was watching today highlighted the sport of sheep shearing in New Zealand and the Columbian target sport of Tejo (where a lead weight is thrown twenty meters into a box of clay in an attempt to explode a small paper triangle filled with gunpowder). That such obscure activities are showcased indicates that the concept of sport has an ethereal and ambiguous quality. How can sheep shearing possibly be a sport when it is simply a means to an end in gathering wool to provide warmth and comfort? When it is regulated, timed and primarily done to discover who is the fastest, fittest, and most skilled in displacing one object (wool) from an other (sheep). When is a recreational game that was labelled 'the devil's game' and banned due to its association with an alcoholic drink, a sport? When those involved practice for hours every day, embed gym sessions into their routines, wear a team uniform in a formal event that is officiated by a governing body.

Transworld Sport is a wonderfully democratic and inclusive sports programme that doesn't pander to the hegemonic Westernised, male and affluent business conception of sport with which we are bombarded on a daily basis in the similarly hegemonic media. Rather, it reveals a conception of sport that is as broad and as deep as human imagination allows a physically skilful activity that is bounded by rules but done for its own sake, to be.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are video games a sport?

Organized competitions, teams, regular salaries, cash prizes, fans - welcome to the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL). Are video games a sport? That is the question raised by Gloria Goodale in an article published in The Christian Science Monitor (link below). The competitors regard themselves as athletes and as being engaged in sport. There are no sticks, no balls, and the competitors might not even break a sweat (or if they do, it may be more likely that it is due to being in poor physical health).

Chess, poker, hot dog eating, skateboarding, golf, baseball, figure skating, swimming, soccer/football, video games - which of these are sports? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taking steroids is only natural...

...according to Alva Noe in this Salon article. One of the central points undergirding the view Noe expresses is as follows:

Human beings are and always have been a technological animal. Ours is a history of shared technological innovation. Sharpened stones and cave paintings show up 80,000 years ago in the archaeological record. We are natural by design; we are designed by nature and culture. Once this basic fact about ourselves is clearly in focus, we are forced to acknowledge that using of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs does not cross a bright line when it comes to personal responsibility. The athlete's reliance on steroids is no different in principle from a reliance on training techniques, newly designed footwear, sunglasses, mitts, nutrition or the computer-graphic analysis of plays. We are what we do and are never entirely self-sufficient in determining the scope of what we can do.

Noe also makes the argument at the end of the article that steroids are not sufficient for the skill required to hit a homerun in MLB, or have the kind of career that high-profile players accused of doping have had. Their talent is not dependent on the performance-enhancing substances.

I am a purist, I suppose, and think the bans on steroids and other similar substances are justified. I think that steroids are different in principle from sunglasses, mitts, and good nutrition.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Philosophy of Sport on Twitter

In a further attempt to embrace web2.0 and not to be left behind (though perhaps it's really an indication of our sheep like tendency), both the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport and the British Philosophy of Sport Association are now on Twitter.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Hypocrisy of the Hit-and-Giggle

And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends, stol’n forth of holy writ;
And seem a saint,
when most I play the devil.
- Richard III

SkySports News reports that IPL Chairman Lalit Modi has warned Bangalore Royal Challengers’ skipper Kevin Pietersen about his on-field “dissent” in Monday’s game against the Chennai Super Kings. The following from Modi is worth quoting in its entirety:

“Every incident in the DLF Indian Premier League is being closely monitored and appropriate action being dispensed with almost immediately. We have a zero-tolerance policy on player indiscipline and will take all necessary steps to ensure that the game is played in the true spirit of cricket. As I have said earlier, cricketers need to realise and quickly that they are huge role models for an entire generation of youth and it is crucial for youngsters all over the world to learn straight away the values of this great game and the spirit in which it should be played. The eyes of the world are on the DLF Indian Premier League and we want to see cricket, and the spirit of cricket, at its best.”

Modi is right about one thing. Dissent should not be tolerated. But what are more interesting are his claims about 20/20 cricket more generally. Some might argue that the IPL is the last place phrases like “the true spirit of cricket” and “the spirit of cricket at its best” should be thrown about. Modi is, after all, the Godfather of a shamelessly mercenary economic operation, and here he is, speaking about the true spirit of a game the original version of which looks nothing like the hit-and-giggle circus he has helped sire.

20/20 cricket is a coin-toss. The varied intricacies of test cricket are absent: a batsman does not need to concentrate for hours, contend with a changing pitch, worry about short balls etc. “Just throw the bat at it, mate, and hope you come off.” Captains worry about containment, and only containment. Bowlers…well, if they go for under eight per over, they get a pat on the back. And that’s just the game itself. What of the financial incentives offered to players who might well prefer to play 20/20 as a career, rather than sign less lucrative contracts with their counties/provinces/countries? What about the possible dilution of the standard of international test cricket because of this and other economic policies, like Kolpak? My colleague James Hutter presented a paper citing these concerns at the recent British Philosophy of Sport Conference in Dundee, where much of the subsequent discussion focused on whether 20/20 was indeed "cricket" or not. Comparing the regulative rules of the two forms of cricket is, I think, helpful, but it does not address the fundamental concerns James and I have with the impact 20/20 is having on the value of international test cricket and indeed, cricket itself. Apparently there is now going to be an American Premier League too. Can you imagine any more of a blatant money-making exercise than marketing hit-and-giggle to a country that knows next-to-nothing about cricket and everything about quick-fix entertainment? (I mean no offense here, but America must answer for the WWE)

But then, this is what cricket is becoming: a fix; a hit. A colourful syringe full of big-hitting, DJ’s, and dancing girls. In an effort to compete with other high-profile money-makers, the Trustees (sic) staffing the Boards of Governors everywhere - these accountants and businessmen – have become indiscriminate street-corner hustlers, cutting their product with hollow and addictive chemicals. The consumer? A drunken clubber in a hard-hat. Now, this is all well and good: people are entertained, money is made, fun is had by all. But it’s not cricket. Which means, Mr Modi, that you cannot sit on your high horse, counting your money and, to use an apt everyday expression, talking shit. A two-dollar whore dressed like a vestal virgin is still a two-dollar whore, and I would hazard the guess that even said two-dollar whore would not try to convince everyone of her chastity. Pietersen should not have shown dissent. But Modi cannot make grandiose claims about the “spirit of a great game”, when he is one of the architects of its destruction. I wonder what baseball or basketball fans would think if their sports were shortened to a two-inning home-run competition or a free-throw and slum-dunk exhibition. What would football fans think if every play had to be a "hail mary" (if that is the term) touchdown attempt? They probably wouldn't like it much. Especially if the powers that be started admonishing players to "preserve the spirit of their great game".

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Student Sports Fans and Bigotry

"College students who are serious about their identification with their institution’s football and men’s basketball teams are more likely than other students to have homophobic and sexist attitudes." See here for the full article.

Thoughts on why this might be the case and what should be done to deal with these issues?

(Hat tip to Rob Sica for bringing this article to my attention.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Graduate Programs in the Philosophy of Sport

In the comments section of the last post, an undergrad inquired about the graduate programs that exist which focus on the philosophy of sport. Those who teach or study in such a program, or simply know of one or more, please give some basic information in the comments section of this post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Moral Development through Sports

A lot has been assumed and written on this topic, but a friend recently pointed me to an op-ed piece in the NY Times, which includes the following:

Concentrating your effort on one or at most a few goals at a time increases the odds of success. Focusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are trained to overcome one challenge after another.

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

This is relevant for sports because one of the deliverances of common sense seems to be that participating in sports, which is one way to exercise, is or at least can be conducive to moral growth. A kid might grow in courage as she faces adversity on the soccer field and then become more courageous in other areas of her life. While some studies show that very little of this is actually going on in sports, I would speculate that this is not because the potential is not there, but rather it is because we are not doing what it takes to realize the potential of sport for moral growth. In the above quote, it looks as if increased willpower just happens. The difficulty is that a person can demonstrate incredible self-control and discipline in one area of life, such as the diet and training regimens of elite athletes, but severely lack it in other areas, such as finances or relationships. The important question is how to expand a virtue from one realm of life to other realms. Or, to put it differently, how to develop a virtue such as courage or self-control so that it permeates more and more of my life, and not just my sporting life. Perhaps the practical lesson is that I should seek to develop a virtue like self-control in my sporting life, and then turn my attention and seek to develop it in another realm or two (such as reading, or eating, or in dealing with difficult people, or not watching tv).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Deadline Extension for IAPS Abstracts

2009 IAPS Conference – August 27-30 in Seattle, Washington – Deadline Extension (April 15, 2009)

Doug Hochstetler, Conference Chair

We welcome your abstracts for submission to the 2009 IAPS Conference -- the deadline for abstract submission is extended to April 15, 2009. The setting is Seattle, Washington with Seattle University serving as the host institution. Dr. Dan Tripps, Director of the Seattle University Center for the Study of Sport & Exercise, is Chair of the Site Organizing Committee, and is working with his committee to prepare what promises to be an outstanding conference. Check the IAPS website ( for the Call for Papers and additional information.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Exploitation in College Sports?

In my introductory ethics course today we had a debate related to whether or not college athletes are being exploited. To frame the issue, consider the following definitions of exploitation:

“[T]o exploit a person involves the harmful, merely instrumental utilization of him or his capacities, for one's own advantage or for the sake of one's own ends.” (Buchanan 1985, 87).

“Common to all exploitation of one person (B) by another (A)…is that A makes a profit or gain by turning some characteristic of B to his own advantage…exploitation … can occur in morally unsavory forms without harming the exploitee's interests and … despite the exploitee's fully voluntary consent to the exploitative behavior…” (Feinberg 1988, 176-79).

“Exploitation [in exchange] demands…that there is no reasonably eligible alternative [for the exploitee] and that the consideration or advantage received is incommensurate with the price paid. One is not exploited if one is offered what one desperately needs at a fair and reasonable price.” (Benn 1988, 138).

“[A] group is exploited if it has some conditionally feasible alternative under which its members would be better off.” (Roemer 1986, 136).

Given these different takes on what exploitation is, can a case be made that college athletes, at least big time college athletes, are being exploited in one or more of the above senses? As one president of Stanford University put it, big time college athletics "reeks of exploitation" because of the revenue generated for the university from the services of the athletes while many of the athletes gain little from their own college experiences.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kentucky Wildcats, Academics, and Money

Eastern Kentucky University, where I work, is just about 40 minutes from the University of Kentucky, so the firing of UK men's basketball coach Billy Gillispie is big news around here. Interestingly, Gillispie was never officially under contract with the school, but rather both parties were working off of a "Memorandum of Understanding".
I have no idea if this is a common occurrence or not, but here is something that caught my interest:

Athletic Incentives
SEC Regular Season Championship $50,000
SEC Tournament Championship $50,000
NCAA Tournament Appearance $50,000
NCAA Sweet 16 Appearance $75,000
NCAA Final Four Appearance $150,000
National Championship $375,000

Academic Incentives
Academic Progress Rate of 950+ $50,000
Graduation Rate of 75%+ $50,000

Now, I'm not one of those academics who hates sports, thinks they are a waste of time, or even begrudges coaches the money they make (well, that last one isn't always true). But in my mind it says a lot about the priorities of a program when the incentives are divided as they are above. Winning is important, and it is part of a coach's job to help his or her team achieve excellence. However, why not put a little more money into the academic incentives column?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tough questions and painful answers; ethical reasoning in sport

What is the difference between circus acrobats and gymnasts when the skill is in focus? Both practices require specific bodily skills, extreme physical strength and flexibility. But in circus we do not question ethics. It is a performance, a spectacle where we never think of young children training hours daily, devoting their life to work in circus, and travelling around the globe for the glory of their family tradition. Do they have an option of open future, if all they know is circus? Do we know how many injuries happened behind the scene? No, we don’t question circus in this manner. But, why do we do so in sport? What is the rationale behind the sport that does not allow us to consider it solely aesthetically? These seem to be the questions we should consider more precisely when considering sport ethics.

The passions, the bestiality, the drives that are controlling the sport at its top are by definition out of command and domestication. We have witnessed many athletes talking about the flow, about collision with the activity itself where one merges with the whole, with no time and place for reflection. We are witnessing the record breaking time and again; we are witnessing what seems to be impossible to happen at the moment. Setting the limit is the key for Aristotelian ethics of proper measure, but going over the edge is the key for excess. It is over the edge where comfort turns to pleasure and pain, which only chosen heroic people are willing to bear. It is the passage from comfort to excessiveness where the mutation of ethics takes place. It turns towards the ethics of law, towards the ethics of maximum, which universalizes what Aristotle regards as an exception; anyone has capacity to realize impossible. How does this position our metaethical grounding?

Finally, not only in sport, isn't the same going on in society at large? Isn't the neoliberal 'credit' society exactly what ethics of maximum is demanding from us?  Facing the global socio-ecological crisis, do we have the courage to admit our wrongs and change not only the world outlook but our daily habits as well? Should we wait for the critical mass to appear and force us into change, or should we act upon it progressively? What can we learn from sport, to protect our failure as human beings? 


Milan Hosta

Friday, March 20, 2009

And now, winning is all about winning.

Well done the FIA. The decision to decide the F1 world champion on race wins is fantastic. But why? If, for instance, Felipe Massa wins the first nine races, the season is over. Who would pay to watch F1 after that? Would anyone care who comes second? Firstly, I submit that anyone who wins the first nine races of the season deserves the chance to kick back and watch the losers scrap for second. That type of performance merits a crown. And why could the competition for second not be even more intense and just as good for the spectators? Come the end of the football season here in Britain, the drama of the relegation scrap often overshadows what’s going on in the top half of the table, especially if it’s your team that’s facing the drop. There are also Champions League and UEFA Cup spots up for grabs, and this keeps everyone interested. The fact that F1 does not have similar incentives is surely something that is easily fixed? Secondly, I hope I’m not getting overexcited here, but can you imagine the seat-of-the-pants racing we might be privy to when the season kicks off in three weeks time? All the big names going all out to win, week after week…new tactics, more pressure and, surely, more drama. Can you imagine two, or three, or even four drivers all needing to win the last race to be world champion? As someone who up until now has only occasionally watched F1, I can’t wait…but I wonder what the proper fans think?

Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 International Association for the Philosophy of Sport Conference

The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport invites the submission of abstracts to be considered for presentation at the 37th annual 2009 IAPS meeting. The conference will be held in Seattle, Washington (U.S.A.) between August 27th and 30th, 2009. Abstracts are welcome on any area of philosophy of sport, including metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics and ethics, and from any theoretical approach, including analytic philosophy and critical theory. In addition to abstracts for papers, proposals for round table and panel discussions, including a tentative list of participants, are also welcome and should follow the same format as paper abstracts. Graduate students and emerging scholars are encouraged to submit works in progress. Abstracts should be 300-500 words long and must be received by April 1, 2009. The preferred mode of submission is by e-mail. Please send the abstract as an attachment, preferably in Word. Contributors who do not have access to e-mail should feel free to send a hard copy instead. Please submit e-mail copies of abstracts to the Conference Chair at:

Please send hard copies (only if e-mail is not available) to:

Douglas Hochstetler
Associate Professor of Kinesiology
Penn State University, Lehigh Valley
8380 Mohr Lane
Fogelsville, PA 18051

Abstracts will be reviewed by a Program Committee of three IAPS peers. Contributors will be notified about the status of their abstracts by May 14, 2009.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In the NFL, Guilty Even When Not Guilty

The National Football League requires all persons associated with the NFL to follow a personal conduct policy (relevant excerpt and link to pdf of the complete policy below). Personal conduct policies are not unusual, but the NFL policy seemingly subjects people to a kind of double jeopardy. For example, Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos, previously subject to league discipline for multiple encounters with law enforcement, is said to be facing further discipline by the league, possibly up to an eight-game suspension (or half of the regular NFL season). His most recent crime? Well, nothing, actually. He and his fiancée were both arrested for disorderly conduct after a public argument that got physical. Charges against both were swiftly dismissed within hours. Nothing further will come from that incident as far as the law is concerned. The trouble for Marshall, however, is that according to the NFL Personal Conduct Policy, “It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime.”

Persons associated with the NFL are held to a higher standard. That in itself does not always seem problematic, and it is not unique to the NFL. But might the standard be too high? As it is, someone like Marshall is “guilty when accused” as far as the NFL is concerned. Such a policy seems to conflict with any normal understanding of justice. Marshall is not only required to defend himself in front of the law, but then again in front of the NFL commissioner.

Some persons, attorneys included, are beginning to take note. Attorney David Cornwell is raising some challenges to the NFL's right to discipline players (see the second link below). He refers to the NFL’s disciplinary policies as “draconian and unfair,” and argues that “The notion that a person who has a bad event is a reflection on all of us is misplaced.” He wants the NFL to be fair and also to focus on “making sure that the fan understands that the vast majority of NFL players are great community citizens.”

There are at least two relevant concerns here. First, is the policy fair? Granting that the NFL may permissibly hold persons associated with it to a higher standard, is the standard unjustifiably high? Second, even if the policy is just, is it best for the NFL? An incident like Marshall’s most recent would hardly catch much attention given how swiftly it was dropped as an issue by law enforcement. The NFL’s policy, however, gives the incident legs and focuses negative attention onto the NFL. The policy may do more harm than good to the NFL. Perhaps the NFL ought to concern itself more with offense and defense on the field, and let the legal system deal with legal offenses.

Relevant excerpt from the NFL Personal Conduct Policy: “All persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League.’…While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher. It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful. Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime.”

The NFL Personal Conduct Policy (pdf):

Cornwell challenging NFL's policy:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Call For Papers: IAPS at Eastern APA

International Association for the Philosophy of Sport in conjunction with the APA Eastern Division Meeting December 27-30, 2009, at the Marriott Marquis, New York City.

The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport invites the submission of papers to be considered for presentation at the 2009 APA Eastern Division Meeting. Papers are welcome on any area of philosophy of sport, including metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics and ethics, and from any theoretical approach, including analytic philosophy and critical theory. Presenters must be members of both APA and IAPS and pay regular conference registration fees. For more information on IAPS, go to

Papers should be no more than 10 pages in length, 20 minutes reading time. Only 300-500 word abstracts are required for consideration; the deadline is April 30, 2009. The preferred mode of submission is by e-mail to Only those contributors who do not have access to e-mail should send a hard copy to

Heather Reid
Philosophy Department
Morningside College
1501 Morningside Ave.
Sioux City, IA 51103
FAX: 712-274-5101

Abstracts will be reviewed by and contributors will be notified about the acceptance or rejection of their papers by May 31, 2009.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Call for Abstracts- Soccer (Football) and Philosophy

From Professor Ted Richards:

We are looking for scholarly philosophical essays written for a lay audience to be included in Soccer and Philosophy, to be published by Open Court Publishing Company as part of their successful Popular Culture and Philosophy series (for more information on the series, see
Essays can deal with philosophical topics relating to any aspect of the sport, its history, its teams, coaches, referees, and supporters. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
• Soccer Illuminating Philosophy, e.g.:
o Pele, Plato, and the Form of Perfection
o “Going for Goal”, or Aristotelian Teleology in the Modern Game
o If Sartre Played Midfield, or the PassinItself vs. the PassforItself
o Intention and Involvement in an Offside Position
• Philosophy Illuminating Soccer, e.g.:
o The Existential Anguish/Bliss of a NilNil Game
o The Aesthetics of the Beautiful Game
o Can the Professional Foul Be Beautiful?
o Multiagent
Decision Making and the BackHeel Pass
• Soccer as a Microcosm of Larger Cultural Issues, e.g.:
o Divine Intervention, the Abdication of Responsibility, and
Maradona’s “Hand of God”
o Social Justice and the Democracy of Talent in Professional Soccer
o Justified Violence, Zinedine Zidane and the Loss of Reason
o Ethics vs. Pragmatics as Exemplified in the Play of Marco Materazzi
• National Character in Soccer and Philosophy, e.g.:
o Friedrich Nietzsche, Lothar Matthäus, and the German Ideal of Soccer
o Personal Identity, Roles, and the “Total Football” of the 1970s Dutch National Team
o Humean Skepticism and English LongBall Football

Please submit an Abstract (100‐750 words) and CV (for each author/coauthor) for
consideration electronically to Ted Richards at:
Deadline for abstracts is 30 March 2009.
Acceptances will be notified by 15 April 2009. If selected, the deadline for a 1st draft (roughly 12‐18 pages, double spaced) would be 30 June 2009. The editor and press hope to have the volume on the shelves for the 2010 World Cup Finals.
* Negotiations ongoing to title the book Football and Philosophy outside of the United States and Canada.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Part 2: Hunting for Food Versus Hunting for Sport

For J.W. Keating sport is a type of aesthetic endeavor, and one judges how well the game is played partly by the conduct and attitudes of the players. Many of the terms that describe aesthetics and art are the same terms that describe sport (Kuntz, 1973). Hunting is generally judged by the standards of fair play and fair chase. As Keating writes in “Sportsmanship as a Moral Category”:
The primary purpose of sport is not to win the match, to catch the fish or kill the animal, but to derive pleasure from the attempt to do so and to afford pleasure to one's fellow participants in the process (Keating 1964, 29).
The intention of hunting is not to kill per se, but to derive pleasure from the attempt to do so; and often, if not most of the time, the hunter's attempts to kill an animal will end in failure. This likelihood of failure is necessary to maintain the tension and enjoyment that arises from the game's fundamental uncertainty. Because much of the modern criticism of hunting is crucially intertwined with questions of fair play, hunting’s defenders need to be reacquainted with the connections between sport, sportsmanship, and the sporting ethics of hunting.

If food were the primary object of our intentions in hunting and angling, then it would be just as easy to go to the grocery and be done with it. As a prudential argument for hunting, food getting hardly constitutes a moral justification for hunting or fishing. There are easier, faster, and more efficient means of getting food. There are also countless forms of hunting and angling where food as such is hardly an overwhelming consideration in proportion to the time, money, and effort the individual puts into the activity. One does not quail hunt for food, for example, although certainly one may enjoy quail as a meal. If food were the main concern or “proper object,” quail hunters would choose to raise quail in a pen and slaughter them as they would chickens for the table.

Instead, quail hunters hunt; it is the quail hunt itself that is the proper object of the hunting.

This is not to say that food is never a motivating consideration when one hunts. Certainly 300 pounds of elk meat in the freezer from a single elk puts the three ounces of meat from a single quail into perspective. Many big game hunters do hunt partly for the meat. But if meat were the sole objective, it would be just as easy to purchase domestically raised venison or ranch-raised elk meat as it is to go through the process of hunting. It is the hunt one enjoys when going after elk or other big game.

Food-getting accounts also tend to underestimate or downplay the importance of pleasure in the eating of meat as food. As Elizabeth Telfer observes in “The Pleasures of Eating and Drinking,” no one is required to eat fish, for example. There are clearly alternatives to eating fish (Telfer, 1993). But people who enjoy eating fish derive considerable pleasure both from the eating but also from the cooking and preparation of fish. Thus for Telfer pleasure motivates the eating of fish no less than the angling for fish. In other words, even the justification for different kinds of food preferences indicates moral choice and a tacit acceptance that elaborate meals are morally acceptable.

Making food the only proper object of hunting and angling would also not justify the potential risk of losing an animal that occurs from time to time in hunting and fishing. Regrettably, one of the more serious aspects of the “game” of hunting and fishing is the chance that an animal may be wounded but not recovered, or that a fish may be hooked, injured, but then freed by breaking the line. Here certainly the importance of the game itself, i.e. the importance of hunting and angling to its practitioners, helps to justify the risks involved; just as in other sports the risk of possible injury to the participants—sometimes serious injury—is accepted as a condition for participating in the activity. Hunters and anglers seek to minimize that possibility of “crippling losses” of the animals pursued, but the possibility is always there. If food were the primary or “proper object,” then, the only ethical way of obtaining one's meat would be from a fish farm or an abattoir, where the circumstances surrounding the death of the animals can be highly controlled.

This is why recent calls to defend hunting not on the basis of sport but on “utilitarian values” such as food miss the mark. Wildlife managers Walt Gasson and Larry Kruckenberg recommend to hunters:
Don't defend hunting as “sport.” Remember that, despite what we might think, most of the American public opposes “sport” hunting. Instead, emphasize the personal values of hunting. We hunt to get close to nature; we hunt to enjoy experiences with friends and family. These are acceptable values. Most hunters eat their kill, so it's fair to defend hunting from this angle. Emphasize the utilitarian values of hunting (i.e. consumption of meat) whenever possible (Gasson and Kruckenberg 1993, 38).
This argument is repeated by many others (Geist, 1997; Kerasote, 1993; Organ and Muth, 1998; Moyer, 1998) Although each of the other motivations that Gasson and Kruckenberg mention clearly do influence the decision of many hunters to hunt, note what results if the enjoyment of the activity itself is downplayed or ignored. There are other ways to get close to nature than hunting. One could choose to play cards with friends and family if that is one’s goal. One can eat meat without killing animals by hunting. Each of these putative justifications for hunting miss the point that the goal or purpose of hunting is to hunt. Hunting is an elaborate, rule-bound game for pursuing and killing an animal. And because the game in this case is a physical one, “sport” is the accurate philosophical concept to be used in association with hunting.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Assuming that most readers of this blog already enjoy sports in one way or another (I am not taking a huge leap of faith here), I doubt there will be any converts. My words will fall on mute ears and blind eyes, the first of several ironies—those in need of conversion will not read it and those already converted need not read it. Yet, a “service” is held below, as much in hopes of (re)conversion or reassurance as of advancing understanding. Alas! This may be a thread that would amuse Camus and his hero, Sisyphus, because of an underlying absurdity I leave up to others to explore. There are three parts. I entreat you, dear readers, to bear the burden with me, while the next two sections-as-postings “be-come”.*

Introductory Rites

Hymn. Let’s face the rock.

In the first place, why should we push the rock at all, when we know it is going to roll back down? To rephrase this in a way more germane and appealing to, ironically again, unsporting temperaments: Why should we care about pursuing sports and physical activity at all? Or to put it another way: what reasons can we, converts, give to those heathens and slothful cynics who shun sports and physical activity to join in our rule-governed exertions? Particularly when our allotted and cumulative energy in this valley where toil is guaranteed is a very limited amount, the expense of which sees us exiting for good. Before anyone spends any more energy on this, it would be good to have an answer to that.

Psalm. Pushing the rock and setting up the problem.

I am going to fling an accusatory stone (for which I will surely have to atone). A contemporary Spanish writer of note, Juan Manuel de Prada, whose novels have received all kinds of prizes in the old country, during an interview for the most widely read Sunday newspaper supplement stated, I suppose with no small glee, that: “Sport is the most nefarious legacy that Ancient Greece handed down to us” (XLSemanal, July 13th, 2008, p.78, my translation).

A bit of context will help to frame my choice to make an example of him in more than one way, and as model of “sinner” to be converted. Of a generously plump build, he comfortably embodies the stereotype of the pure intellectual suspicious of physical labors, down to his conch eyeglasses, double chin, and parsimony of movement (ironically, I am not trying to be insulting). According to him, he last ran when he was 16, a good quarter of a century ago. In other words, he could become the Saint Spare-Me-The-Sweat of couch potatoes some day (which is not too farfetched, given his dogmatic devoutness in matters Catholic and the frequency of his visits to the Holy See for journalistic purposes).

Penitential Rite: Becoming the rock and adding salt to the wound.

Camus speaks of how Sisyphus becomes the rock at one point in his struggle up the hill. Last year, after a public lecture I gave as part of my university’s faculty lecture series, where I explored the philosophical benefits of sport, a colleague asked me: “All this is fine and dandy for us who already enjoy physical activity, but how do we get to exercise or enjoy sports those who simply don’t like them?” Damnation and mortification! Shock on my part! Amid the flock, how dared this acolyte, model member of the “Health and Human Performance Studies” parish, come so close to apostasy?

And yet, both, her question and the Spanish writer’s remark bore the promise of epiphanic redemption should their challenge be met: Sport and physical activity are universally endorsed, often reluctantly and temporarily embraced by those on whom the message is forced upon, on a variety of fronts: many of these reduce to the utilitarian concerns having to do with the health benefits and concerns over the ever growing equatorial growth of waistlines and narrowing of arterial passages. Then, there is the more “pure at heart” eulogizing of the intrinsic enjoyment to be found in these sort of vigorous activities (just in what this intrinsic worth lies is puzzling itself, but something I leave for another occasion). Yet both persuasions prove, time and again, ineffectual. The devilish temptation to relapse onto the comforts of prostration, the inertness of reading, indulgence in the listless intellectual and sensual pleasures of the arts, computerized pastimes, or worse and more common, TV stupor—all garnished with copious amounts of fat-laced snacking—prove to be irresistible.

We have pushed the rock up the hill. The view from the top is not as magnificent surmised: the horizon is strewn with languid bodies as far as the eye can see. For most, this rock-pushing trek is not worth the effort. Unless your appetite devolves into a gluttonous hunger for self-induced, pointless punishment—the penitence for this being forced passivity, of course. But that is not our problem today. Rather, it is the opposite.

What will inspire those motion-allergic people to push their own rock up a hill (even if it might be pointless on some deep sense), not (only) because it is healthy but because it is … fun? How can we find not just solace but deliverance and embrace the good cause? The rock rolls down again.

Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza
Linfield College

* If adulation will not work with as sophisticated a mind as yours, perhaps the insinuation of shared toil after worthiness and atonement will. As an aside, and of all the things for which I could express contrition, I offer no apology for the less than orthodox nature of this post—stylistically heretical from a philosophical stance but genuinely seeking to follow Sophia, for those who have the ears to hear and the eyes to see.