IAPS @ Pacific APA 2023: Bernard Suits’s Utopian Legacy

IAPS is hosting a session at this year’s Pacific APA. The Pacific APA is being held in San Francisco, April 5-8, 2023.

The session is Friday April 7, 2023, 7-9 pm

Topic: Bernard Suits’s Utopian Legacy

Chair: Shawn E. Klein (Arizona State University) *


  • Francisco Javier Lopez Frias (Pennsylvania State University)
  • Taliah L. Powers (Pennsylvania State University)
  • John S. Russell (Langara College)
  • Christopher C. Yorke (Langara College)

More Information about the Pacific APA 2023

* Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the meeting.


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Brief Review: Infinite Baseball

On one hand, I really rather enjoyed this book. The chapters are short and pithy. Noë’s musings about baseball are thought-provoking; and his love of baseball shines through out. His idea that baseball is all about deciding who’s responsible for what left me thinking about baseball from a new perspective. The relation of baseball to language and linguistics was intriguing. Anyone interested in baseball will find the book charming.

On the other hand, I found myself annoyed at times with the book. Clearly aware of the philosophy of sport literature, the author makes almost no mention or reference to it. So many of the topics he dives into he treats as novel and original, as if he’s the first to consider these topics philosophically, when they are well-trodden in the literature. Noe has some interesting insights, but these too could have been better had he engaged with the writings by philosophers of sport.

Noë is explicit that he’s not trying to write a philosophy of sport book; that his is more the musings of a philosopher obsessed with baseball. And there is much in the book that fits this vein. But much of the book is also engaged in philosophical analysis of arguments about topics central to sport.  As such, it is, necessarily, a work in philosophy of sport. And on that front, one has to grade it down a bit because it doesn’t enter the dialogue where those conversations are taking place. To strain the metaphor, he’s swinging the bat, but not stepping into the batter’s box to face the pitcher.

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The Super Bowl and the Penalty that shouldn’t have been called

Sunday’s Super Bowl was a great one. The game was well-played, close and exciting. Both Mahomes and Hurts were excellent. There were very few mistakes by either team, though Hurts did have a costly fumble in the first half and the Eagles special teams gave up an equally costly return late in the second half. Even the half time show was visually impressive.

But as great as the game was, one of the talking points after the game was the late game defensive holding call. This made what might have been a very exciting and tense ending to the game anticlimactic as it allowed KC to run the clock down to just a few seconds before kicking their game winning field goal. It seems like nearly every non-KC fan thinks that penalty shouldn’t have been called. As a philosopher of sport, this got me thinking. What do we actually mean by that claim? It seems like there are three possible meanings.

  1. The call was incorrect: it was not a penalty and thus shouldn’t have been called.
  2. Technically, it was a correct call, but it shouldn’t have been called.
  3. Technically, it was a correct call, but that kind of play just shouldn’t be a penalty.

So (1) seems belied by the Eagles cornerback James Bradberry’s admission that he did in fact hold Kansas City’s receiver Juju Smith-Schuster on the play. And replay does show contact by Bradberry. But was that contact, even the grabbing of the jersey in the way Bradberry appears to, enough for it to be a penalty?

There are two different versions of (2). The first is that given the moment of the game, so near to the end of the game and that it’s the biggest game of the year, the officials should just let things go unless they are egregious fouls. This is the “let the players play view.”

The second is that officials seemed not to be too eager to call many penalties in the game. There was a total of nine penalties enforced on Sunday. The average, according to my googling, is closer to 12-14 per game. And so, it felt like suddenly the officials decided to get tight after being loose. This is the “Just be consistent view.”

In both of these views, there is recognition of the penalty, but a frustration that the game gets more or less decided by the officials rather than by the teams. Of course, that’s not literally true. Many things could have happened in the remaining minutes (the Eagles D manages to force a fumble, the KC kicker misses the field goal, the Eagles get a big kick off return and are able to score in the final seconds). But it certainly felt like the game was over once that holding call was made. Partly these views are just expressing dissatisfaction at that outcome. But going beyond that, these views imply a theory of officiating that has officials using their discretion to determine whether to make a call or not. That is, not whether it is a foul or not, but whether the foul should be called or let go. I worry about a such a view. The game is fairer when officials are not deciding whether to enforce a rule or not. There is always, necessarily, discretion by the officials in determining if a foul occurred, but once they determine that it is a foul, they should call it regardless of game scenarios or moments.

Lastly, (3) is the view that the rules need be to be changed. Yes, this was a penalty, and so the officials did nothing wrong in calling it. Nevertheless, the rule is not a good rule and the game would be better overall without restrictive defensive holding. Restrictive defensive holding rules make the passing game easier. Such rules are part of the trend in the last 10-15 years (if not more) to give more and more advantages to the offensive side of the game. This has created an imbalance in the game, which might be good for ratings, but not for the game. The integrity of the game is better preserved by a balanced set of rules that do not overly favor the offense or the defense.

Personally, I’m more in the (3) camp. I’d like to see more balance in the NFL rules. I think the game would be more balanced, the defense and offense more equally challenged, if the defensive players were able, using some physical contact, to redirect and slow down receivers on their routes.


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Filed under Football, NFL, Officiating, rule-violations

Book Review: Philosophy, Sport, and the Pandemic

My review of Philosophy, Sport, and the Pandemic, edited by Jeffrey Fry and Andrew Edgar, was published on the Nordic Sport Science Forum.

There are some excellent chapters in this new anthology on sport and the pandemic, but my overall assessment of the volume is mixed. There are some issues with it that prevent me from recommending this work without qualification.

Read the review: https://idrottsforum.org/klesha_fry-edgar230201/

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Call for Abstracts | 50th International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (Split, Croatia)

[Reposting from IAPS.net]

The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport invites the submission of abstracts to be considered for presentation at the 50th annual IAPS meeting and essays for the 2023 R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award. The conference will be jointly hosted by the University of Zagreb and University of Split in Split, Croatia and organised by Professor Matija Škerbić and his team.

The conference will be primarily in person but there will be opportunity for some online presentations as well as recorded Keynotes available to watch remotely.

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.

Deadline for abstract submission is 27 March, 2023. Contributors will be notified about the status of their abstracts by 5 May, 2023.

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, Emily Ryall (eryall@glos.ac.uk).

About IAPS

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.

2023 R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award

IAPS is proud to announce the ninth 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 of 2800-3000 words by 27 March, 2023 (in addition to an abstract, both through easy chair, see below) and notify the Conference Chair by email (eryall@glos.ac.uk).  A separate announcement is posted at the IAPS website (http://iaps.net/conference/r-scott-kretchmar-student-essay-award/). The selected winner shall present their paper and receive the award at the annual IAPS conference. Previous winners are not eligible to receive this award. Please indicate on your abstract submission if you plan to apply for the essay award and/or student travel grant.

Conference Requirements

All conference presenters shall register for and attend the conference (if you wish to present remotely, please indicate this on your abstract) 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/

Abstract Guidelines

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 27 March 2023. Abstracts MUST follow the template (http://iaps.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/IAPS-Abstract-Template.docx) 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.

Submission Instructions

To submit an abstract, go to https://easychair.org/my/conference?conf=iaps2023. New users for Easy Chair must create an individual account login. Please complete the submission information and upload your abstract. Please note on your abstract if you wish to submit remotely otherwise it will be assumed that you wish to present in person.

Social Program

The organizers are planning for a social program throughout the conference and a pre-conference social program will also be arranged. More details will follow in the newsletter and conference updates.

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Filed under CFP, Conferences, IAPS, Sports Studies

Examined Sport: Nicholas Dixon “On Winning and Athletic Superiority”

In this episode of Examined Sport, I look at Nicholas Dixon’s article: “On Winning and Athletic Superiority.” Published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport in 1999, this article examines the relationship between winning and athletic superiority. Dixon also explores whether playoffs are an effective way to determine athletic superiority.

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Filed under Cheating, Examined Sport, gamesmanship, Philosophy, podcast

Brief Review: Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Sport

Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Sport

This book is made up of two essays. The first essay focuses on the origins of sport in general, while the second focuses on Ancient Greek athletics in particular; and as instance of the general theory Sansone proposes in the first essay.

Sansone starts by discussing various accounts of where sport came from, dismissing them before offering his own. He argues the roots of sport are to be found in distant human pre-history: in particular, rituals and rites engaged in for hunting among Paleolithic hunters. He argues that sport is a form of ritual sacrifice of human energy. As human cultures moved away from sole reliance on hunting as source of food, the rituals used by hunters persist, evolving into various cultural features, including sport. The energy used for the hunt shifts away from the hunt into other ritual behaviors. While there are some very interesting descriptions of various rituals and different cultural rites across cultures from all over the world, the argument is unpersuasive. First, there are key assumptions of motivations and explanations of pre-historic and ancient peoples that seem impossible to know with any measure of assurance. Why did the hunter bath before the hunt? There are various possible reasons, but so far removed how could we possibly know with any confidence? Second, the links between the rituals and sport is too speculative to establish more than interesting possible connections.

The second essay focuses on Ancient Greek athletics and how these too are rooted ultimately in the hunting ritual. The focus is really on aspects of athletics: why the Greeks engaged in sport naked, why they anointed themselves with oil, etc. There is not much in the way of trying to explain the origin of sport as such (I supposed Sansone takes himself as having established that in the first essay). Like the first essay, I found the discussion itself very interesting, in particular some of the striking similarities in disparate cultures, but I don’t think the overall argument is all that persuasive. What Sansone takes as having established with confidence still seems far more speculative. I think Sansone is correct that sport contains much that is rooted in pre-historic rituals; and that many of these ritual behaviors have been repurposed to fill some new needs. But he doesn’t discuss these needs that sport is meeting; why adopt these ritual behaviors, why put them to these new uses? Moreover, I don’t think Sansone answers the main questions he takes himself to be answering: why do humans engage in sport? Why has sport persisted through time and cultures? I am not sure we can ever know the answers to these questions. At one point, Sansone says “But people engage in sport today for the same reason they have always engaged in sport, namely because they have always engaged in sport” (56). It’s not much of an answer, but it might just be the best we can get.

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ASU: Philosophy of Sport in Spring 2023

I will be teaching Philosophy of Sport again in Spring 2023 at ASU!

PHI 371: Philosophy of Sport

Course Description:

An inquiry into philosophical issues in sport. Topics and readings will vary, but may include: the nature and definition of sport, an examination of the main theories of sport, metaphysical and epistemological issues, and the aesthetics of sport. Since PHI 370 Sports Ethics examines ethical issues in sport, this course will not primarily deal with ethical issues.

This course counts as an elective for the Sports, Cultures and Ethics Certificate.

The course also counts towards the Humanities General Studies (HU) requirement as ASU.

Here is tentative schedule for the readings:

Week One: Introduction and overview

Week Two: Defining Sport

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Bernard Suits, “The Elements of Sport” in Osterhoudt, Robert G. The Philosophy of Sport: a Collection of Original Essays. Springfield, Ill., Thomas, 1973
    • McBride, Frank. “Toward A Non Definition of Sport.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 2, 1975, pp. 4–11.

Weeks Three and Four: Sport and Play

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Suits, Bernard. “Words on Play.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 4, 1977, pp. 117–131.
    • Roochnik, David. “Play and Sport.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 2, 1975, pp. 36-44.
    • Feezell, Randolph. “A Pluralist Conception of Play.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 37, 2010, pp. 147-165.

Weeks Five and Six: Sport and Games

  • Assigned Reading:
    • Suits, Bernard. “Tricky Triad: Games, Play, and Sport.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 15, 1988, p. 1-10.
    • Meier, Klaus V. “Triad Trickery: Playing With Sport and Games.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 15, 1988, pp. 11–30.
    • C. Thi Nguyen, “Philosophy of Games.” Philosophy Compass, Vol. 12, No. 8, 2017, p 1-18.

Week Seven: Sport and Art

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Cordner, Christopher. “Differences Between Sport and Art.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 15, no. 1, 1988, pp. 31–47.
    • Holt, Jason. “Sport as art, dance as sport.” AUC Kinanthropologica, Vol. 53, No. 2, pp. 138–145.

Week Eight: Are E-Sports Sport?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Hemphill, Dennis, “E-sports are Not Sports.” Sports, Ethics and Philosophy, Vol 13, 2019, pp 3-18.
    • Gawrysiak, Joey, “E-sport: Video Games as Sport” in Defining Sport, edited by Shawn E. Klein, Lexington Books, 2016, pp 207-221

Spring Break

Week Nine: Theories of Sport: Formalism

  • Assigned Reading:
    • D’Agostino, Fred. “The Ethos of Games.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 8, no. 1, Fall 1981, pp. 7–18.
    • Morgan, William J. “The Logical Incompatibility Thesis and Rules: A Reconsideration of Formalism as an Account of Games.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 14, no. 1, Jan. 1987, pp. 1–20.

Weeks Ten and Eleven: Theories of Sport: Broad Internalism/Interpretivism

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Simon, Robert. “Internalism and Internal Values in Sport.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 27, no. 1, 2000, pp. 1–16.
    • Russell, John. “Are Rules All an Umpire Has to Work With?” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 26, 1999, pp. 27–49.
    • Dixon, Nicholas. “Canadian Figure Skaters, French Judges, and Realism in Sport.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 30, no 2, 2003, pp. 103–116.

Week Twelve: Theories of Sport: Practices and Narratives

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Brown, W. Miller. “Practices and Prudence.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 17, no. 1, Jan. 1990, pp. 71–84
    • Gleaves, John. “Sport as Meaningful Narratives.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 44, 2017, pp. 29–43.

Week Thirteen:  Theories of Sport: Deep Conventionalism

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Morgan, William. “Broad Internalism, Deep Conventions, Moral Entrepreneurs, and Sport.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 39, 2012, pp. 65–100.
    • Moore, Eric. “Against Deep Conventionalism.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 45, no. 3, 2018, pp. 228–40.

Week Fourteen: Mind and Body

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Breivik, Gunnar. “Zombie-Like or Superconscious? A Phenomenological and Conceptual Analysis of Consciousness In Elite Sport.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 40, no 1, 2013, pp. 1–22.
    • Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine, “Rationality and Caring: An Ontogenetic and Phylogenetic Perspective,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 29, no. 2, 2002, pp. 136-148.

Week Fifteen: Knowing in Sport

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Steel, Margaret, “What We Know When We Know A Game,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 4, no. 1, 1977, pp. 96-103.
    • Birch, Jens Erling, “Skills – do we really know what kind of knowledge they are?” Sport, ethics and philosophy, Vol.10, no. 3, 2016, pp.237-250

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Filed under Arizona State, Classes, Philosophy

The Abomination of the Pitch Clock

Major League Baseball has announced rule changes for 2023 that would introduce a pitch clock into the major leagues. This is an abomination; a violation of the metaphysics of the game.

Baseball is a game outside of and separate from time. More precisely, it is a game without measured, clocked time.

There is no game clock or play clock. At-bats, innings, games do not have a set or defined time.

Games have an official time only in the descriptive sense of how long the game took: the official game time has no bearing on the game itself. There is no extra time, injury time, half time, two-minute warning, or even time-outs.

It is true that we often here that “time-out” has been called: in broadcasts, game write-ups, etc. This is, however, just a confused borrowing of the concept of “time-out” from other sports. The rules of the game don’t mention a ‘time-out’. They mention ‘time.’ The umpire can call ‘time’ to suspend play (and players/managers can request ‘time’). Notice the suspension of play, the stoppage of play, is not marked by calling for a time out but instead by calling for ‘time.’ This suggests that time is being introduced, rather than stopped. And then when the umpire calls ‘play’: time ceases and play begins. In baseball, play is outside time: the introduction of time stops play.

 Rule 3.12 When an umpire suspends play, he shall call “Time.” At the umpire-in-chief’s call of “Play,” the suspension is lifted and play resumes. Between the call of “Time” and the call of “Play” the ball is dead.

There are several points in the rules that give the umpire some discretion regarding game-action or, more typically, delay based on “reasonable time” passing. And there is Rule 8.04 which specifies (or rather specified) 20 seconds for the pitcher to pitch. (It was later reduced to 12 seconds and with the recent MLB announcement has changed to some new baroque arrangement). And the basis for rule 8.04 goes back at least to 1910, but probably further (1910 was the earliest reference I found). So, this is no modern fluke. However, the 20 seconds was never measured or clocked. It was always up to the umpire (and rarely enforced).

Pace of Play

Many think baseball needs a pitch clock to increase the pace of play. There is a worry that the games have gotten too long and that has affected viewership and fan interest. I am not sure that’s true, but I also don’t think this is the solution. We can agree pace of play is an issue without introducing time into the game.  There are other ways to incentive faster play that are more consistent with the history and essence of the game.  (See my foul strike proposal for one example.)

Play and Sport

The relationship between play and sport is a complex one, but in all sport, even professional sport, an element of play remains. Johan Huizinga was one of the premier scholars of play and its importance to culture. In his famous work, Homo Ludens, he argues that one key element of play is that it is out of the ordinary: “It is rather a stepping out of “real” life into a temporary sphere of activity with a disposition all of its own” (8). Further on he says that “Play is distinct from “ordinary” life both as to locality and duration” (10). Play is extra-ordinary: it has its own time and space, its own internal boundaries and limitations. It is the carving out of this special time and place that marks something as play; that gives play its magic, so to speak. It either allows us to be entirely absorbed (as we while away the hours unaware, totally enmeshed in a world-building game like Civilization or Minecraft) or creates the tension of the activity: the way in which the last few game-minutes of a timed-game like football or basketball can take much longer in real time, creating the tension of running one last play in the last two seconds—something not possible without the game’s special construct of time.

Baseball utterly and purposely disregards discrete measurement of time. It is measured by other things: strikes, balls, outs, runs. Time is not a factor in any of these. To introduce the discrete and clocked measurement of time, so that batter has 8 seconds to get set, a pitcher 15 seconds to pitch, etc., is to introduce something totally alien to baseball.

Part of the magic of baseball is that there is no time: as long as you have an out to give, you have a chance. It doesn’t matter how many runs you are down by or how long the game has gone on: if your side still has an out, you have life. The battle between pitcher and batter is one of the central games within the game: and it is not limited by time. The pitcher either gets the batter out on strikes, walks the batter, or the batter puts the ball into the play: this might be an out, a hit, or run. But there are no other limits. This makes it purely a contest between the pitcher and batter. And that’s the essence of baseball. Bringing in time undermines this. It introduces an external limitation on the play of the game; one that violates the metaphysics of the game.

As a comparison, consider taking away the discrete measurement of time from American football. The clock runs without stopping: this would fundamentally change the nature of the game: the tactics, the plays, the style of play, etc.  Football is all about the discrete and precise measure of space and time: baseball is the opposite: space and time are not measured or, rather, is rarely measured as part of the play (yes a home run has to go a minimum distance, but that’s kind of secondary to it: once it’s gone that far, it’s a home run). In each sport, these relationships to space and time are essential to the nature and play of the game.

To many this might sound like a cranky baseball purist who doesn’t want to see the game evolve or change. That is to entirely misread the argument here. The point is not that there shouldn’t be rule changes to improve and progress the game. Of course, there should; and there always has been. But there is a difference in kind between changing the mound height or the rules about foul balls as strikes, on one hand, and introducing time into a time-less game. The former are emendations, revisions, or extensions to the game as it is. They might be judged better or worse, for example, at how well they help to create a balance between batting and pitching or even the overall spectacle. The latter kind of change, however, is a fundamental change to the game’s essence.  It might improve the spectacle by some measure but at the cost of the game itself.

That is why the pitch clock is abomination.


Filed under baseball, play

JPS: Book Reviewers Needed

The Journal of the Philosophy of Sport is looking for book reviewers. Specifically, they are looking for people to review the following:

If you are interested, reach out to Emily Ryall, associate editor and book review editor, at JPS.

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