Friday, January 30, 2009

Conference Announcement & Call for Abstracts:

*Sport & Technology: Philosophical Dimensions*
Friday, May 29, 2009 - Sunday, May 31, 2009

Keynote Speakers:
Dr. William J. Morgan, University of Southern California
Dr. W. Miller Brown, Trinity College

Hosted by Continuing Studies & the Department of Philosophy Langara College Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Conference Information:
The world has witnessed the breaking of world and Olympic records in unheralded numbers in recent years. Advances in training, equipment, doping substances and methods, and potentially even genetic engineering have apparently changed sport from its historical origins. These events invite philosophical discussion and analysis of the ethical dimensions of the use of these new technologies and, also, of their broader implications for the conception of sport itself. Some questions that should be asked include: What role does technology play in sport, and what role ought it to play? What responsibilities do sport governing bodies have over the regulation of technology in their individual sports? Ought cutting-edge technology be available to all competitors, or is the design and utilization of technology a legitimate component of strategy within sport? Is some technology acceptable, and other not? What is the threshold for acceptable technological advantage? What is the moral difference, if any, between the use of technology to aid performance in sport and the use of performance enhancing drugs? The conference aims to open philosophical dialogue on these and other topics related to technology and sport.

We invite participation on any topic that addresses the philosophical dimensions of technology in sport. Papers on other topics related to philosophy of sport will also be considered and will be accepted if there is room on the conference agenda.

Articles submitted in full by April 15th will be considered for publication in a special fall 2009 issue of The Journal of Philosophy of Sport.

Please submit abstracts (250 – 400 words) electronically to all listed below:
Dr. John S. Russell,
Dr. Gabriela Tymowski,
Dr. Angela Schneider,

Abstract Deadline: March 1st, 2009 (note extension)
Notification of Acceptance: By March 15th, 2009

Registration: Form available at . Conference fee is $100 Cdn. ($65 Cdn for students enrolled in a post-secondary program). Indicate under "Course" that you are enrolling in "Sport and Technology: Philosophical Dimensions." The course code is 60580. See for information about Langara College. The conveners will send further information to registrants, including plans for a golf tournament (the College adjoins a golf course), seawall runs and/or a hike up Grouse Mountain, and a dinner.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Plaza 500 Hotel, which is a short bus trip to Langara College and close to downtown. Call 1-800-473-1811. Room rates are $139 Cdn/night. (The Canadian dollar is currently $.81 US.)

For further information:
Dr. John S. Russell
Chair, Dept. of Philosophy
Langara College
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
V5Y 2E4

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

100-0, with Honor?

The coach of a Texas high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0 was fired Sunday, the same day he sent an e-mail to a newspaper saying he will not apologize "for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity."

Given that I didn't witness the contest, I can't say a lot beyond speculation about the ethics of this particular scenario. However, it does seem to me that playing with honor and integrity would involve not taking 3 point shots in the 4th quarter of such a lopsided game. Sport philosophers Nicholas Dixon and Randolph Feezell have offered arguments about this type of situation. Dixon argues against a received view concerning sportspersonship that he calls the Anti-Blowout thesis:

It is intrinsically unsporting for players or teams to maximize the margin of victory after they have secured victory in a one-sided contest.

One of the strongest points in favor of his view raised by Dixon is that it is not true that those who suffer lopsided defeats have been humiliated or diminished as humans. The only cause for shame in such a situation would be giving up, if one is on the losing side. And in a competitive game, when part of the purpose is a determination of athletic superiority and excellence, there is nothing immoral about running up the score. (For more, see Dixon's "On Sportsmanship and Running Up the Score'," Journal of the Philosophy of Sport (1992): 1-13).

On the other side of this issue, Feezell argues that even if it isn't always wrong to run up the score, it usually is and strong overriding factors must be present if the following Revised Anti-Blowout Thesis is to be overridden:

It is prima facie unsporting for players or teams to maximize the margin of victory after they have secured victory in a one-sided contest.

For more, see Randolph Feezell, "Sportsmanship and Blowouts: Baseball and Beyond," Journal of the Philosophy of Sport (1999): 68-78. Both papers are also reprinted in Sports Ethics, edited by Jan Boxill.

Given the above principles and the ESPN account, was it wrong to run up the score?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can Straight Shooters Use Beta Blockers?

What if some athletes were prevented from performing to their full potential because they were abnormally nervous in front of big crowds? Mastering the mental aspects of competitive sport is integral to being a true champion, but what about uncontrollable nervous reactions, like sweaty palms or nervous twitches? Carl Elliot asks whether Beta Blockers, which were used by two North Korean pistol shooters at the recent Olympic Games, can be classified in the same way as steroids or human growth hormone in this piece in The Atlantic:

What do you all think?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

14th annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science

ECSS Congress in Oslo, June 24-27 2009
From June 24 to June 27 2009, The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences will organize the 14th annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science in Oslo, Norway. This is a multi-disciplinary congress that gathers between 1500 and 2000 scholars from all sport science fields and from all over the world.

Please check out the Congress home page on
Dead line for abstract submission is February 15th 2009.