I was interviewed about the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport’s session at the APA Central Division Meeting in March 2017 in Kansas City. The session, as readers of the blog are probably aware, was an Author Meets Critics on Golf As Meaningful Play: A Philosophical Guide (forthcoming) by W. Thomas Schmid (University of North Carolina at Wilmington).
Important update to the IAPS conference location. The IAPS Executive has voted to move the 2017 conference from Starkville, Mississippi to Whistler, British Columbia Canada. (more on why here).
There is an updated call for papers, though the dates are the same (Sept 6-9, 2017) and the deadline for abstract submissions remains March 31, 2017.
Hope to see you there!
This year’s IAPS session at the Central APA meeting in Kansas City, MO is Author Meets Critics: Golf as Meaningful Play: A Philosophy and Guide by W. Thomas Schmid. This book is part of the Lexington Book Studies in Philosophy of Sport Series. It is in production and should be out soon.
Time: Saturday, March 4: 12:15–2:15 p.m
Topic: Author Meets Critics: Golf as Meaningful Play: A Philosophy and Guide by W. Thomas Schmid.
Chair: Shawn E. Klein (Arizona State University)
- Seth Bordner (University of Alabama)
- Francisco Javier Lopez Frias (Pennsylvania State University)
- Pamela Sailors (Missouri State University)
- W. Thomas Schmid (University of North Carolina at Wilmington)
This interesting looking call for a panel at the American Studies Association Annual Meeting (Chicago, November 9-12, 2017) came my way, so I’m passing it on:
The Humanities on Fantasy Sports
From humble beginnings, fantasy sports have grown into a cultural phenomenon in which more than 57 million North Americans now participate. Given their immense popularity, however, the scholarly attention dedicated to them remains modest by comparison, particularly in the humanities. The vast majority of research done on fantasy sports derives from the social sciences and generally focuses on legal, economic, and sports management issues. This panel seeks to expand the parameters of fantasy sports scholarship, to give scholars within the humanities an opportunity to intervene in current debates on the subject and to generate their own. It is an attempt to open previously unexplored avenues for fantasy sports research that will broaden the philosophical, theoretical, cultural and intercultural, geographical, historical, and/or disciplinary scope of the field. To this end, I seek contributions on the intersection of fantasy sports and philosophy, critical theory, history, rhetorical theory, cultural studies, game studies, and/or literature. I am especially interested in abstracts that address issues of internationalization, unconventional gameplay, uncommon fantasy sports, philosophical and theoretical approaches, alternative genealogies, community and communities, and ethics. All abstracts with a clear relationship to the humanities will be strongly considered.
If you would like your work to be considered for this panel, please send 300-word abstracts to Andrew J. Ploeg at email@example.com by Sunday, January 29th, 2017. If you have any questions, feel free to email.
There’s a sweet spot at the end of the day between not being quite focused and energized enough for reading but still not quite ready to shut down for some mindless TV. I fill this some days by watching things like TedEd on YouTube. Recently, I came across John Green’s Crash Course channel: a wide-ranging short format educational video series. (Side note on Green: he writes bestselling books especially beloved by teenage girls, he is the leader of Nerdfighters, and is a huge Liverpool fan. A man of many talents and interests.)
I started watching Crash Course’s series on Games hosted by Andre Meadows. Its primary focus is on video games, but the introductory course starts with the question of “what is a game?” As a philosopher, I was really curious how they would approach this.
Meadows starts where many would start: the dictionary. I don’t like starting there. Dictionaries are great for capturing usage, but that’s not the same as defining the concept (see my introduction of Defining Sport for more of my thoughts on that). Nevertheless, the goal in this video is not necessarily the conceptual or philosophical definition, so I’ll grant Meadows some slack there.
The dictionary definition he quotes is: “a game is a construct that organizes play through a series of rules, for the purpose of achieving a set of goals, overcoming an obstacle, and/or obtaining an objective.”
As Meadows says, that’s a decent definition. Indeed, it looks a lot like Bernard Suits’ well-known definition: “To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs [prelusory goal], using only means permitted by rules [lusory means], where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means [constitutive rules], and where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity [lusory attitude]” (The Grasshopper).
Suits’ definition is a standard in philosophy of sport (though it has some issues) and personally the philosophy nerd in me would have liked to see the Crash Course video engage more in some of the questions and issues raised both by Suits’ definition and Suits’ discussion of games. But that’s probably more than the course needed or wanted.
Meadows’ dictionary definition is missing a few key elements. Meadows notes this with his discussion of entertainment and its role in defining games. Now, depending on what he is getting at with entertainment, that might be captured by the placing of games in the genus of organized play. We can see that, I think, in his discussion of noted game developer Chris Crawford’s analysis of games as a kind of interaction with a ‘play thing.’ Crawford, as Meadows tells us, starts with the play thing: the object with which one interacts and entertains one’s self. Add goals, challenges, and a kind of conflict and you get a game. The core idea starts with the goal of entertaining one’s self through a kind of play. So, by making ‘game’ a species of organized play, the entertaining aspect seems already to be there.
I like that Meadows makes a point of explaining that play has to be voluntary. You have to want to play or it’s not play. However, he makes what I consider to be, an all too common, error when he says, “Voluntary participation is essential. Otherwise, it’s work.” Voluntary participation is essential to play and games, but it’s also essential to work: otherwise we are talking slavery. The Work/Play relationship and distinction is a fascinating one. I think it is often also a confused one. While it is true that work comes with obligations and restrictions we might not otherwise choose in isolation, we still are choosing them as part of the package of choosing to work (and what work and how we approach our work, etc.).
One key element that the video misses—though I think Meadows’ discussion implicitly is trying to get at—is the notion of the lusory attitude. The lusory attitude, as first set out by Suits, is our attitude of accepting the rules, challenges, goals, restrictions of the game. Namely, we accept these for the sake of the game itself – as opposed to accepting them for some other purpose external to the game. Here’s an example that comes up frequently in my classes. War has many features that might make it look like a game: there are goals, there are rules, there are challenges. I always have a few students who want to make the case that war is a kind of game. One of the reasons why this fails though is that participants are not accepting the goals or the rules of war in order for there to be a war. The war exists for the goals; while in games the goals exist for the game. In particular, the rules of war are accepted by the participants for the sake of something else such as morality or law. They are not accepted in order to make war possible: that would be really disturbing. In games, though, we accept the rules, the constraints on behavior, just in order to make the game happen. This is the lusory attitude. (This is why, in part, Katniss is not in a game in the Hunger Games, she is just trying to survivor a cruel and sadistic regime.)
Because we are talking about an attitude, this does make identification of games a little tricky. If you have the right attitude, war (or the Hunger Games) can be seen as and treated as a game. I see this as an advantage for the definition, however, since I think it better captures the reality of games. There are those who treat and engage in war or other activities as if they are games—and so, their actions and behaviors can be explained and understood in similar ways to those who are engage in more standard games. And when someone treats standard games as life and death, or as externally imposed, then it is harder to compare those participants’ actions and behaviors to normal game players. So it makes sense to put these under different conceptual headings at least in part because of the different attitudes.
The video ends with a discussion of value of games and game play. There is a lot good stuff here (maybe I’ll blog about that later), and the rest of the series is an informative and entertaining history of video games. I highly recommend it.
I’m proud to announce the publication of my edited volume: Defining Sport: Conceptions and Borderlines.
Part One examines several of the standard and influential approaches to defining sport. Part Two uses these approaches to examine various challenging borderline cases (e.g. bullfighting, skateboarding, esport, Crossfit). These chapters examine the interplay of the borderline cases with the definition and provide a more thorough and clearer understanding of the definition and the given cases.
UPDATE 3/6: Location has changed. See https://sportsethicist.com/2017/03/06/cfa-iaps-2017-update/
[I am so excited that IAPS is back in the USA this year! See the Call for Abstracts below.]
International Association for the Philosophy of Sport Conference
September 6-9, 2017 at Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi USA
The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport invites the submission of abstracts to be considered for presentation at the 45th annual IAPS meeting and essays for the 2017 R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award. The conference will be held September 6-9, 2017 in Starkville, Mississippi USA hosted at Mississippi State University.
Abstracts are welcome on any area of philosophy of sport (broadly construed), including metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics, and from any theoretical approach, including analytic philosophy and critical theory. While IAPS recognizes, values, and encourages interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies, acceptance is contingent on the philosophical content of the project. Emerging scholars are encouraged to submit works in progress. See Abstract Guidelines below for template and instructions.
Deadline for abstract submission is March 31, 2017. A Program Committee of three IAPS peers will blind review abstracts. Contributors will be notified about the status of their abstracts by May 12, 2017.
Proposals for round table and panel discussions, including a tentative list of participants, are also welcome and should be directed towards the IAPS Conference Chair, Pam Sailors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS) is committed to stimulate, encourage, and promote research, scholarship, and teaching in the philosophy of sport and related practices. It publishes the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, which is widely acknowledged as the most respected medium for communicating contemporary philosophic thought with regard to sport. IAPS members are found all over the world and constitute a growing and vibrant international community of scholars and teachers. More information on IAPS can be found at www.iaps.net.
2017 R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award
IAPS is proud to announce the fourth edition of the “R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award.” Interested undergraduate and graduate students who will be presenting their paper at the conference should submit a full paper by April 15, 2017 (in addition to an abstract, both through Easy Chair, see below). A separate announcement is posted at the IAPS website. The selected winner shall present their paper and receive the award at the annual IAPS conference.
All conference presenters shall register for and attend the conference to have their paper included on the conference program. Presenters must also be members of IAPS (either student or full). New members may register for IAPS membership at the following www.iaps.net/join-iaps/
IAPS will be using the “Easy Chair” conference management system. Submitted abstracts should be 300-500 words long, in English, and must be received by March 31, 2017. Abstracts MUST follow the template and include:
- A brief summary of a philosophical research topic
- Keywords (three to five)
- At least three references to relevant scholarly publications that contextualize the topic.
To submit an abstract, please download the IAPS Abstract Template. When you are ready to submit the abstract, go to https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=iaps2017 . New users for Easy Chair must create an individual account login. Please complete the submission information and upload your completed IAPS Abstract Template.
The latest issue of Reason Papers, which I co-edit with Carrie-Ann Biondi, has a symposium on the philosophy of play.
Gadamer, Dewey, and the Importance of Play in Philosophical Inquiry
Christopher C. Kirby and Brolin Graham compare how play is crucial in the philosophical inquiry of Hans-Georg Gadamer and John Dewey.
Child-Centered Play Therapy
William Schultz looks at the evidence of the emotional and psychological benefits of play therapy for children.
Reflections on the Presence of Play in University Arts and Athletics
Aaron Harper looks at the parallels of play in the arts and athletics and argues for more integration of play into the university.
The Reconstructive and Normative Aspects of Bernard Suits’s Utopia
Francisco Javier Lopez Frias re-examines Bernard Suits’ The Grasshopper and his conception of Utopia.
The International Association for Communication and Sport (IACS) is hosting the 10th Summit on Communication and Sport. The Summit is scheduled for March 30 – April 2, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.
They recently sent out the Call for Abstracts for papers and panels. The deadline is October 14, 2016. Information on submission is at the IACS website.
For conference submission inquiries, please contact Dr. Lauren Smith
There have been many great examples of good sportsmanship at the Rio Olympics. USA gymnastic teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman cheering each other on even as they compete against each other. USA’s Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin helping each other finish a race after colliding in a 5000 meter qualifier. Galen Rupp falling back from the pack in the 10,000 meter to check on Mo Farah after accidentally tripping him. Athletes throughout the games, winning or losing, acknowledging each other and the crowd.
There have been some bad examples too. Two stands out: USWNT goalie Hope Solo’s unfortunate comments after losing to Sweden and French sprinter Wilhem Belocian ripping his bid off in disgust after being disqualified for a false start. I understand both Solo and Belocian’s frustration and can easily see myself being overcome by disappointment or anger and responding as they did. These were not their best moments. Poor sportsmanship for sure, but these actions speak more to being overcome in the moment by emotions not necessarily to deeper character flaws.
But there were a few other examples of bad sportsmanship that fall under a different heading and require a different kind of analysis:
- The Lebanese delegation blocking the Israel delegation from boarding the transportation bus to the opening ceremony.
- Islam El Shehaby of Egypt refusing to shake Israeli’s Or Sasson’s hand after a Judo match.
- Joud Fahmy of Saudi Arabia forfeiting a Judo match possibly to avoid facing Israel’s Gili Cohen.
These sorts of actions regarding Israel are nothing new. Even just prior to the Olympics, Syrian boxer Ala Ghasoun refused to participate in an Olympic qualifying event in June against an Israeli. Similar refusals happened in the London, Beijing, and Athens Games.
While there are examples of bad sportsmanship no matter the event, at the Olympics where the philosophical basis and purpose is fundamentally about peace, these examples are especially egregious.
There are real problems and conflicts in the Middle East. There is a lot of violence and fighting and killing. This ought not to be denied, hidden, or ignored. Israel and her relationship to her Arab and Muslim neighbors, citizens, and residents is a complicated, complex issue on which rational people can and do strongly disagree. There are dangerous and violent conflicts all over the world.
But the point of the Olympics is to find a space beyond all this. The crazy idea is that we take a break from real life—a life where unfortunately conflict and violence might still rule–to play games, to watch humans excel and compete at the highest levels of ability and talent.
Here are two quotes from the Olympic Charter on the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.
- “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
- “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Olympism and the Olympic spirit calls for people to step outside their normal routine and see that there is a possibility of peace, a possibility of mutual understanding and prosperity. As Heather Reid writes “Playing sports together seems to humanize ‘the other,’ by overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers and demanding mutual respect”(1) Through sport, where individuals must cooperate to compete under a set of rules and norms, people can come to see that cooperation, respect, understanding, and dignity are indeed possible—even with people you are ‘supposed’ to hate.
It is this explicit hope and spirit of peace that makes the Olympics different from World Championships or the World Cup. This is not just another event on one’s pro tour. Its specialness comes from the underlying philosophy of Olympism and its explicit call for peace and mutual respect among and between nations and individuals.
It is this that the Lebanese delegation, the Egyptian, and Saudi Arabian violated. Their lack of sportsmanship is a denial of the very purpose of the Olympics. It doesn’t merely reflect poor judgment or an overflow of angry disappointment. It is rooted in hate and antisemitism. It is a refusal to even consider the possibility of peace and mutual respect. There is no more un-Olympic way to be.