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 http://www.iaps.net/

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 reid@morningside.edu. 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 http://www.opencourtbooks.com/categories/pcp.htm).
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: tedr@utk.edu.
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.

New Sport Philosophy and Reasonable Expectations

Recently, we've seen several contributions to the philosophy of sport literature from philosophers who made their names elsewhere. Three cases in point are Michael Sandel's The Case Against Perfection, Gumbrecht's In Praise of Athletic Beauty, and most recently, Colin McGinn's Sport. I always experience keen anticipation as I order, open up, and begin to read such books. The excitement comes, I suppose, from knowing the excellent work that such individuals have produced in the past and the expectation that their analyses will enlighten me in exceptional ways. Invariably, however, I end up disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were unreasonable.

One factor, however, that seems to be a constant in such first-time volumes is a lack of background research by the author. Well-known, mainline philosophers who choose to turn their attention to sport for the first time, in other words, rarely do their homework. They do not bother to see what has already been written on the topic. They do not properly cite authors who made identical (and very well-known) claims years ago. From all indications, they are not even aware of the scholarly journals that exist in the area. When they offer recommendations for future reading, their suggestions are typically pathetic.

Of course, from this it does not necessarily follow that their work is not at all worthy. Indeed, there are parts of the aforementioned books that are quite good. But this practice is bothersome. It is bothersome because it would seem that a first step for any scientist who comes upon what is, for that person, a new problem is one of finding out what is already known about that very issue.

Thus, a question: Does any philosopher who is entering a new arena have an obligation to do some homework before putting his or her name to a publication? Is that a reasonable expectation or not?

Scott Kretchmar
Penn State

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Prolegomenon: Hunting as Sport

Most people are familiar with the long-standing criticisms of sport hunting. For example, in “A Damnable Pleasure,” Joseph Wood Krutch’s polemical critique of hunters and hunting, Krutch writes:
The killer for sport has no . . . comprehensible motive. He prefers death to life, darkness to light. He gets nothing except the satisfaction of saying, “Something which wanted to live is dead. There is that much less vitality, consciousness, and, perhaps, joy in the universe. I am the Spirit that Denies.”
To which Krutch adds, “To me it is inconceivable how anyone should think an animal more interesting dead than alive. I can also easily prove to my own satisfaction that killing ‘for sport’ is the perfect type of pure evil for which the metaphysicians have sometimes sought . . . ” (Krutch 1969, 148). Anti-hunters like Krutch commonly argue that hunting is unjustifiable because it is violent, unethical, and barbaric. Hunters enjoy a "damnable pleasure" that is pure evil. (Hell, while we’re at it—hunters are pure evil.)

Joy Williams’s essay, “The Killing Game,” is a similarly dramatic ad hominem against hunters. “The American hunter is blood-thirsty, piggish, and grossly incompetent," Williams writes. The main problem with recreational hunting, she argues, is simply the fact that hunters “kill for play, for the thrill of it.”

Therefore, "it’s time to stop actively supporting and passively allowing hunting and time to stigmatize it."
Hunters’ self-serving arguments and lies are becoming more preposterous as nonhunters awake from their long, albeit troubled, sleep. Sport hunting is immoral; it should be made illegal. Hunters are persecutors of nature who should be prosecuted. They wield a disruptive power out of all proportion to their numbers, and pandering to their interests–the special interests of a group that just wants to kill things–is mad. It’s preposterous that every year less than 7 percent of the population turns the skies into shooting galleries and the woods and fields into abattoirs. It’s time to stop being conned and cowed by hunters, time to stop pampering and coddling them, time to get them off the government’s duck-and-deer dole, time to stop thinking of wild animals as “resources” and “game,” and start thinking of them as sentient beings that deserve our wonder and respect, time to stop allowing hunters to be creditable by calling it “sport” and “recreation.” Hunters make wildlife dead, dead, dead. It’s time to wake up to this indisputable fact. As for hunters, it’s long past check-out time (Williams 1990, 265).
It’s pretty clear that Williams dislikes both hunting and hunters!

In contrast I believe that recreational sport hunting pursued for its own sake is morally justifiable. What’s more, I specifically embrace the use of the terms ‘recreational’ or ‘sport’ hunting to defend hunting. The reality of recreational sport hunting is that hunters are motivated not by need or utility but by a desire for the pleasures and enjoyment of the hunt. When viewed in this way, in this specifically non-utilitarian or even aesthetic sense, sport hunting can be interpreted, defended, and justified as an art form.

The idea of calling sport hunting an art form is not crazy. In a thoughtful book about boxing, for example, novelist Joyce Carol Oates speaks of “the awareness of life’s tragic ambiguity that serious art provides” and argues that the sport of boxing is a serious art (Oates 1994, 137). In a similar book about bullfighting, Bruce Schoenfeld writes, "Bullfighting at its best forces everyone who sees it to become keenly aware of his own mortality, which arguably should ennoble his being and enhance his life. It's serious stuff" (Schoenfeld 1992, 91).

Exactly. Hunting is serious stuff as well. As a voluntary leisure activity hunting has the potential to ennoble one’s being and enhance the lives of those who practice it.

One of the problems with discussing hunting today is the terminology we use. Traditionally, the term ‘sportsman’ has conveyed the normative side of recreational hunting by helping make distinctions about fair and unfair methods of hunting. But more recently, the very idea of the hunting as a sport has itself been called into question. Some defenders of hunting believe that the use of the term ‘sport’ to describe hunting trivializes hunting. Others respond by saying that justifications of hunting as sport should be abandoned in favor of utilitarian justifications such as food-getting.

The term ‘sport’ however continues to convey accurately the sense of sporting ethics that has distinguished non-subsistence hunting as a recreational activity for thousands of years. Abandoning the term ‘sport’—or, at the very least, forgetting the reasons why hunting should be classified a sport—would be a mistake in my view.

It may just be that conceptualizing hunting as a sport provides the only possible basis for a meaningful hunting ethics. Aldo Leopold argues that hunting for sport is an "improvement" over hunting for food because the entire notion of "sport" brings with it not only an emphasis on skill but also an ethical code that hunters must uphold "without the moral support of bystanders" (Leopold 1933 (1986), 391). Those who argue that hunting is best defended as a means to getting food are left without a rationale for why hunting should be conducted in an ethical or sporting manner as opposed to the most efficient or expedient manner.

We might also consider the question asked by José Ortega y Gasset in Meditations on Hunting: Does hunting have an essence? Even though many philosophers tend toward skepticism about "essences" of anything, hunting as a concept helps organize different human experiences and identify what is common to all of them. The philosophic literature on play, games, and sport, provides a theoretical basis or framework for understanding what Ortega refers to as the "essence" of hunting. Is play or "sport" the essence of hunting? There are good reasons for believing so.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Equity of prize money in tennis...

Although it's not a particularly new area of debate, David Edmonds on the University of Oxford Practical Ethics blog has recently written a post arguing against the claim that women and men should receive the same prize money in tennis. His main syllogism is that prize money should be dependent on ability, men have greater ability than women, therefore men should receive more prize money than women. He does concede that there is a degree of personal interest involved in his claim in that any counter-argument resting on the premise that women should receive extra advantage in their 'handicap' [my word not his] by virtue of sex, would descriminate against him as a less tennis-abled man.

Take a look at his post and get the discussion going...