Chair: Shawn E. Klein (Arizona State University)
- Jack Bowen (Menlo School)
- Kyle Fruh (Stanford University)
- Tara Smith (University of Texas at Austin)
Abstracts for the talks:
Appreciation of Sport: How the Seemingly Trivial Becomes Essential
Jack Bowen, Menlo School
Sport is considered by some as trivial: athletes spending countless hours honing a skill which only has value in the institution of that particular sport (throwing a ball through a circle, in the case of basketball for example). Though, it is actually becauseof this that sport and the athletes who play it are worthy of our appreciation. Throughout human history and until recently, we have needed to hunt for our own food, fight in various wars and battles and, yet, at a time of great peace and abundance, sport now fills that niche for many of us. Sport provides a venue in which we can show appreciation on various levels: regarding physical accomplishments, moral achievement, and, from there, an appreciation of our own good fortune to even be able to appreciate—which has its own benefits. In doing this, it turns out we may actually need certain mantras in place often dismissed by those who love sport such as, “winning is everything,” and that sport is a matter of “life and death,” and other such hyperbole. In addition, we may need to continue the narrative of athletes as making sacrifices, etc, despite the fact that such assertions fall flat outside of the sports context. In a sense, we’re asking of ourselves and those who participate to maintain a sense of dissonance in order that our appreciation rings true with what we otherwise rightly celebrate and hold dear.
“Moral Achievement, Athletic Achievement, and Appropriate Admiration”
Kyle Fruh, Stanford University
There is a strong presumption that when we respond to moral excellence with admiration, the object of our admiration is virtue. I develop three arguments to show that morally reflective practices of admiring should generally spurn this widely shared presumption about the object of admiration and take instead as their object what I will call moral achievements – discrete, morally remarkable actions – rather than aspects of an agent’s character. In each argument, I draw on an analogy with a domain of non-moral admiration – namely, admiration of athletic achievement. As a rich terrain of admiring responses, sports offer us relatively well-understood distinctions among possible objects of admiration – a particular feat or play, a set of skills, a career, a team, etc. I suggest, in each of the three arguments I develop, that the analogy is instructive for reflective moral admiration. The upshot of the paper is, on the one hand, theoretical, inasmuch as it develops a tension between the conditions governing appropriate admiration and an empirically informed view of the nature of character. But there is also practical upshot, especially in the context of collective, public practices of admiring and honoring, as when we build statues of heroes or name buildings after them
“On a Pedestal—Sport as an Arena for Admiration”
Tara Smith, Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin
In philosophical analyses of the value of sport, a relatively unheralded feature is the opportunity that sport oﬀers for admiration. While we readily salute many of the things that people admire (the amazing catch, the sensational comeback), we do not suﬃciently appreciate that admiration itself is a positive good, potentially beneﬁcial to the admirer. At a time when much in the world around us seems distinctly unadmirable and when admiration itself is often dismissed as naïve, athletic achievements and the qualities that propel them present palpable counter-evidence to our darker conclusions.
The paper proceeds in four stages: first, explaining what admiration is; second, identifying the kinds of things that sport distinctly oﬀers to admire; third, demonstrating the value of athletic admiration, tracing how this contributes to a ﬂourishing life through the role-modeling that it oﬀers, the action that it encourages, and the feelings that it fosters; fourth, addressing objections, which serves both to clarify and to fortify its central contention.