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Sport, Play, and Ethical Reflection

Sport, Play, and Ethical Reflection

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Sport, Play, and Ethical Reflection
    Book Description:

    In paperback for the first time, Randolph Feezells Sport, Play, and Ethical Reflection immediately tackles two big questions about sport: What is it?? and Why does it attract so many people?? Feezell argues that sports participation is best described as a form of human play, and the attraction for participants and viewers alike derives from both its aesthetic richness and narrative structure. He then claims that the way in which sports encourage serious competition in trivial pursuits is fundamentally absurd, and therefore participation requires a state of irony in the participants, where seriousness and playfulness are combined. _x000B_Feezell builds on these conclusions, addressing important ethical issues, arguing that sportsmanship should be seen as a kind of Aristotelian mean between the extremes of over- and under-investment in sport. Chapters on cheating, running up the score, and character building stress sport as a rule-governed, tradition-bound practice with standards of excellence and goods internal to the practice. With clear writing and numerous illuminating examples, Feezell demonstrates deep insight into both of his subjects.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09116-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    This book is the product of two things: my lifelong interest and involvement in sports and a philosophical turn of mind. The combination may be relatively rare but hardly unique. At one point in my life I was convinced that the former, cultivated and developed in youth, had to give way to the latter, whose inchoate appearance blossomed as an undergraduate and seemed to trump my other interests as I entered graduate school. Like someone seeking to expunge bad habits, I sought to move on, to leave sports back there behind me where they belonged. I believed that significant involvement...


    • 1 Sport, Bodily Excellence, and Play
      (pp. 3-18)

      Where does one begin in philosophy of sport? What does it mean to take a philosophical interest in sport? Even for someone with a significant background in philosophy the answers to these questions are not obvious. Historically, philosophers have for the most part simply ignored sport as an appropriate topic of philosophical concern. Suppose for years you have unreflectively participated in and watched sports, and suppose you are also committed to the Socratic ideal of the examined life. A kind of vague existential imperative might naturally arise to seek a philosophical understanding of sport, but its method and its shape...

    • 2 The Freedom of Play
      (pp. 19-31)

      Paul Weiss’s seminal book on philosophy of sport is motivated by the curiosity expressed in the following questions:¹ What is the attraction of sport? Why the widespread interest? Why are so many involved? To answer these questions we must say something about what sport really is and what it offers to those participating in it. Weiss believes that its benefits are primarily bestowed on the young, since such goods are available to young people in ways that other important goods, like intellectual and moral virtue, are not. According to Weiss, sport is attractive because it provides opportunities to attain excellences...

    • 3 Sport, the Aesthetic, and Narrative
      (pp. 32-45)

      From Paul Weiss’s relatively early and legitimating reflections inSport: A Philosophic Inquiryto more recent ruminations in books and scholarly publications, numerous philosophers have been fascinated by the fascination of sport. For example, in his recent book,Philosophy of Sport, Drew Hyland again wonders about the “significant and apparently transcultural appeal” of play and sport.¹ I won’t attempt to catalogue the various attempts to understand why so many of us are attracted to sport, especially sports that involve the playing of games. Like many people, I’ve wasted a good part of my life playing and watching these games, and...

    • 4 Play and the Absurd
      (pp. 46-57)

      One of the most interesting aspects of the relatively recent discussions of play and sport is the way philosophers have shown, in their descriptive and speculative reflections, how fundamental aspects of human existence are revealed in the experience of play. These elements are lived by the player and made manifest to the spectator. One thinks first of the classic discussions offered by Huizinga, Caillois, and Eugen Fink, which describe such themes as freedom, spontaneity, joy, the transcendence of the ordinary, the lived experience of space and time, illusion, mystery, and imagination.¹ Building on these seminal discussions, other thinkers have added...

    • 5 Sport and the View from Nowhere
      (pp. 58-80)

      “Isn’t football the toy department of life?” famous television journalist Mike Wallace asks, with that cynical, disarming smirk, his accusatory gaze fixed on yet another pitiful subject. But we feel no sympathy for this subject. Famous, passionate, obsessive football coach Bill Parcells glares back, his mouth framed somewhere between a grimace and smile: “It may be to you, but not to me. It’s my life.”

      Mike Wallace represents the reflective gaze of objectivity, ruthlessly calling a spade a spade—or, in this case, wondering how a grown man could take a mere game so seriously. He is the quintessential outsider,...


    • 6 Sportsmanship
      (pp. 83-96)

      A movement in contemporary moral philosophy is attempting to return our attention to thinking about the centrality of virtue in the moral life. Until recently the language of virtue had seemingly fallen into disfavor in twentieth-century philosophizing about moral matters. We heard much talk about the naturalistic fallacy, verificationism, the expression of attitudes, prescriptivity, universalizability, the principle of utility, and the like, but little talk aboutbeinga certain kind of person, having certain dispositions or characteristics that we have always thought to be central to living life in a civilized moral community. In the move toward thinking about lived...

    • 7 On Cheating in Sports
      (pp. 97-110)

      Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, unrealistic, or engaging in empty romanticism, but I can’t accept the notion that, somehow, cheating in sport may be acceptable. Like most people, I take the proscription on cheating to be a central part of sportsmanship. However, some have questioned this. It has even been held that cheating might be interesting, become a part of the very “structure” of sport and, the incompatibility thesis notwithstanding, that cheaterscanplay the game. These theses have been defended in interesting and persuasive ways by some contemporary thinkers.¹ But they can’t be right, can they? Surely something has gone wrong...

    • 8 Sportsmanship and Blowouts
      (pp. 111-122)

      As a player and a coach, I’ve been on both sides in blowouts, games in which a team won by a lopsided score. If my team was crushed, I felt worse than I would have had our team been more competitive. If I was fortunate to be on the winning side, I attempted to be gracious in closing out the game and relating to opponents after the game. I assumed that such graciousness was an important part of sportsmanship. As a player, I learned to be gracious. As a coach, I’ve insisted that my players behave this way. In contrast...

    • 9 Sport, Character, and Virtue
      (pp. 123-142)

      I think it’s the commercials that did it. Most American sports fans have seen them. You’re watching a college athletic contest, timeout is called, and the commercial advertisements begin to drone. Then He appears. He’s poised, articulate, and successful—I mean really successful! He’s probably the CEO of a major corporation. He smiles and explains that he was once a second-string guard at State University. The camera pans to old footage of a State game where number 68, playing courageously with no face mask, is leading a sweep into the end zone—of course. He tells us that playing sports...

    • 10 Respect for the Game
      (pp. 143-156)

      In the previous discussion of the ethics of pursuing blowouts, one of the arguments against running up the score referred to the notion of “respect for the game.”¹ The phrase at first seems too vague to be very helpful in understanding what it means to be a good sport or to function as a basis for making ethical judgments about conduct in sport. Yet this very language, or language close to this, is quite common in the everyday ethical discourse of the sports world. Consider a few examples. The retirement of Cal Ripken Jr. from major league baseball occasioned comments...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 157-170)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 171-173)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 174-174)