Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Steroids and Forgiveness

Steroids are again in the news, with the formal admission by Mark McGwire that he used steroids during his career, including the season in which he broke the HR record. Much has already been said about this, but I think an interesting philosophical point here has to do with the nature of and justifications for forgiveness.

Some, like Jack Clark, are too angry and upset to consider forgiving McGwire, at least at present.

Others, like Joe Posnanski and Albert Pujols, are more open to it. Former Cardinal Andy Van Slyke is not happy with the nature of McGwire`s confession.

Should "we" forgive McGwire for his transgressions? In a world of earthquakes and grinding poverty, this can seem of little consequence. But forgiveness is a key component of flourishing human relationships, and so I am wondering if anything can be learned from McGwire`s situation?


Jim Tantillo said...

I would be interested in hearing folks discuss the moral and philosophical implications of Tiger Woods's sexual shenanigans and how they relate to the philosophy of sport. Wade Boggs was a baseball contemporary of McGuire's: Boggs admitted to being a "sex addict." How does sex addiction compare to steroid use? One could argue they both enhance on-field performance, I suppose. At any rate, I am curious what people have thought about the Woods issue.

Jim Tantillo said...

I'm really kind of surprised nobody has commented on this. Let me rephrase the question: I am interested in the connection between character and career (for lack of a better term). The career of Heidegger has received intense scrutiny because of that philosopher's alleged Nazi ties, see e.g., "The Heidegger Case." As Quirk says in that article, plenty of public figures have been awful as people, but it remains an open question in Quirk's mind whether that has any relation to the individual's philosophy, art, or life work. As Quirk writes,

"The problem with both of these approaches is, I think, well expressed by the philosopher Jurgen Habermas when he complains that they tend to "short circuit" any relationship between thought and life, or "work and world-view", by making such a relationship, or non-relationship, necessary rather than contingent, universal rather than a mark of the particular case. For example, Frege was a virulent anti-Semite and anti-Catholic, and an ardent, fanatical German nationalist. Does this compromise his work on sense and reference? Perhaps: some have tried to argue this point (see Andrea Nye, Words of Power: a Feminist Reading of the History of Logic (Routledge)), and it would be foolish to rule this line-of-interpretation out of court a priori. But it's equally clear that the other tack is plausible too --that Frege's work as a logician swings free from his miserable personality. Similar observations might be made about the poets T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and Ezra Pound (all right-wingers, with Yeats flirting with the Irish Fascist Blueshirts and Pound making treasonous radio broadcasts for Mussolini) and their poetry: as W.H. Auden once said apropos of Yeats, we forgive him for having written well. Consider also the dramatist Bertolt Brecht, the critic Georg Lukacs, and the philosopher-essayist Jean-Paul Sartre, all of whom made an ignoble peace, at some time, with Stalinist tyranny (and, in Sartre's case, with the barbarities of Mao's cultural revolution), and their literary output. Picasso, Gauguin, Celine, Robert Frost, Richard Wagner --all of these individuals were incredibly awful as persons, or held repellent political opinions, or both; and while it is quite possible that the sordid personality traits or political convictions might find explicit or hidden expression in the work, it is equally possible that they might have little or no inherent or intrinsic connection to it. It depends on the individual case: the only way to determine this is to encounter the work with an open mind, and with both eyes open."

So again, I'm curious whether anyone sees any connection between McGuire's doping, Woods's philandering, and the larger question of how these failings relate to the athletic achievements of these individuals.

Quirk writes there are basically two ways of looking at the question:

"There are two reflexive reactions to consider. First, one can argue that there is a tight, logically necessary connection between the character of the author and the character of the work, and that if Heidegger was a morally dubious individual, his work as a whole will be inevitably 'tainted' with his moral failings. Or second, one can deny any connection between person and work, and insist that they are necessarily separate: as Richard Rorty put it, 'character' and 'genius' are contingent traits that arise from different idiosyncratic, contingent neural kinks' that have nothing to do with each other."

Or is it simply apples and oranges to compare athletes to philosophers and artists? i.e. because the athletic "product" is not-intellectual? I am genuinely interested in hearing peoples' thoughts on these questions.

Nicole C said...
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