Category Archives: Classes

ASU Course: “Games, Utopia, and the Good Life”

In the Spring 2020 semester, I’ll be teaching a Discovery Seminar called: “Games, Utopia, and the Good Life”

Discovery Seminars are small, 1-credit courses offered by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. They are exclusively for first-year students, offering these students the opportunity to have an engaging, small class seminar experience.

The description for my seminar:

What would you do in Utopia? In his classic The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia, Bernard Suits argues that with all our needs satisfied, we would play games. Through a close reading and shared inquiry, we will explore Suits’ account of the nature of game-playing and its role in a meaningful life.

If you are a first-year ASU student, talk with your advisor about signing up for this course.

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Sport and Society

This week in Sports Ethics we look at some questions about the relationship of sport and society. Such questions could encompass a whole course on its own, my focus is more specifically on two main questions:

  1. How has sport influenced society? Specifically, how does it unite people, bringing them together in positive ways? How can it, on the other hand, be divisive and negative?
  2. Assuming sport does impact society and social relations, how should it be (and should it be) used for social goals?

To spur the discussion we watch the documentary The 16th Man about the South African Rugby World Cup in 1995 and we read selections from Jane Leavy’s biography on Sandy Koufax and Jonathan Eig’s Opening Day about Jackie Robinson. We also look at Pam Sailors’ journal article: “Zola Budd and the Political Pawn.

When I first start teaching Sports Ethics, the tone of this discussion was always much more positive. Sport was seen by my students as nearly universally a positive force. More recent instantiations of the class have been more divided (particularly during the peak-Kap era). I am curious how this year will be.

I am excited to rewatch (again) The 16th Man in preparation. It’s a great documentary: it is emotional moving and informative, while also entertaining and compelling. I think the fact that it is focused on South Africa and on rugby, gives my US students some distance that helps think more critically about the questions regarding sport and society. With Koufax and Robinson, since it’s about baseball, it is much more familiar. That helps too, in a different way. The mix of these –with their contrasts and comparisons –helps underscore the ways sport influences society.

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Sports Ethics (PHI 370) @ ASU

I will be teaching PHI 370: Sports Ethics at ASU in fall 2019.

For ASU students: Check with your academic advisor, but this course may be used to meet your HU general studies requirement and your general upper-division hours requirement. It may also be used as one of your upper-division electives in both the Philosophy and the Morality, Politics and Law majors, as well as the Ethics Certificate.

This course is also one of the required courses for the new Sports, Cultures and Ethics Certificate.

sk flyer2019-colorbw-soccer

Course Description:

A study of moral issues in sports, including but not limited to the nature and application of sportsmanship, the prohibition of performance enhancing drugs, ethical issues in the economics of sports, the role of violence, and fandom.

Prerequisite(s): ENG 102, 105, or 108 with C or better; minimum 25 hours; Credit is allowed for only PHI 370 or PHI 394 (Sports Ethics)

The class is scheduled for T/TH 9-10:15 am on the Tempe campus. SLN#: 90250

Tentative Weekly Reading and Unit Schedule
(subject to change)

Week 1: Course Introduction

Week 2: Philosophy and Sport: What is ‘sport’ and why study it?

  • Heather Reid, “Socrates at the Ballpark” Baseball and Philosophy. Edited by Eric Bronson. Open Court: Chicago, 2004, pp 273-283.

Week 3: Sport and Society: What is and ought to be the social impact of sport?

  • Jonathan Eig, “Some Good Colored Players” Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season. Simon and Schuster: New York, 2007, pp 26-34.
  • Jane Leavy, “The King of the Jews,” Sandy Koufax. Perennial: New York, 2002, pp 167- 174, 193-4.
  • Pam Sailors, “Zola Budd and the Political Pawn.” FairPlay, Revista de Filosofía, Ética y Derecho del Deporte, vol. 10, 2017.
  • The 16th Man, Dir. Clifford Bestall. ESPN 30 for 30, 2010. Film.

Week 4: What is sportsmanship?

  • James Keating, “Sportsmanship as a Moral Category,” Ethics 75, No 1, 1964, pp 25-35.
  • Randolph Feezell, “Sportsmanship,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 13, 1986, pp 1-13.

Week 5: Is it ethical to run up the score?

  • Nicholas Dixon, “On Sportsmanship and ‘Running Up the Score”; Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 19, 1992, pp 1-13.
  • Randolph Feezell, “Sportmanship and Blowouts: Baseball and Beyond” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 26, 1999, pp 68-78.

Week 6: Is it wrong to foul?

  • Fraleigh, Warren. “Intentional rules violations — One more time,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 30, No, 2, 2003, pp 166-176.
  • Simon, Robert. The ethics of strategic fouling: A reply to Fraleigh,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 32, No. 1, 2005, pp 87-95.

Week 7: Is competition moral?

  • Kretchmar, R. Scott. “In Defense of Winning,” Sports Ethics: An Anthology. Ed. By Jan Boxill. Blackwell Publishing, 2003. pp130-135.
  • Simon, Robert. “The Critique of Competition in Sports,” Fair Play: The Ethics of Sport. 2nd Edition. Westview Press: 2004. Pp 19-35.
  • Kohn, Alfie. “Fun and Fitness w/o Competition,” Women’s Sport & Fitness, July/August 1990.

Weeks 8 & 9: Violence in Sport: Can fighting or football be justified?

  • Dixon, Nicholas. “A Critique of Violent Retaliation in Sport,” Journal of Philosophy of Sport, Vol 37, No. 1, 2010, pp 1-10.
  • Zakhem, Abe. “The Virtues of a Good Fight: Assessing the Ethics of Fighting in the National Hockey League,” Sports, Ethics and Philosophy, 9, No. 1, 2015, pp 32-46.
  • Russell, J.S. “The Value of Dangerous Sport,” Journal of Philosophy of Sport, 32, No. 1, 2005, pp 1-19.
  • Findler, Patrick, “Should kids play (American) football? Journal of Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 42, No. 3, 2015, pp 443-462.
  • Pam Sailors, “”Personal Foul: an evaluation of moral status of football,” Journal of Philosophy of Sport, 42, No. 2, 2015, pp 269-286.

Weeks 10 & 11: Should performance-enhancing drugs be banned?

  • Savulescu, Julian, Roger Crisp, and John Devine, “Oxford Debate: Performance enhancing drugs should be allowed in sport” University of Oxford, 2014.
  • Simon, Robert ” “Good competition and drug-enhanced performance,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 11, 1984, pp 6-13.
  • Hemphill, “Performance enhancement and drug control in sport: ethical considerations,” Sport in Society, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2009, pp 313-326.

Week 12: How should sport deal with sex and gender equality? 

  • English, Jane. “Sex Equality in Sports” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol 7, No 3, 1978, pp 269-277
  • Sailors, Pam. “Mixed Competition and Mixed Messages.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 41, No. 1, 2014, pp 65–77.

Week 13: Should disabled athletes compete against non-disabled athletes?

  • Edwards, S.D. “Should Oscar Pistorius be excluded from the 2008 Olympic Games,” Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 2, No. 2: 112-125.
  • Burkett, Brendan; Mike McNamee & Wolfgang Potthast. “Shifting boundaries in sports technology and disability: equal rights or unfair advantage in the case of Oscar Pistorius?” Disability & Society 26, No. 5, 2011, pp 643-654.

Weeks 14 & 15: What is the role of money in sport?

  • Duncan, Albert. “Does A-Rod Deserve So Much Money? Yes” Baseball and Philosophy. Ed. by Eric Bronson. Open Court: Chicago, 2004. pp 297-299.
  • Shuman, Joel. “Does A-Rod Deserve So Much Money? No,” Baseball and Philosophy. Ed. by Eric Bronson. Open Court: Chicago, 2004. pp 300-302.
  • Collins-Cavanaugh, Daniel. “Does the Salary Cap Make the NFL a Fairer League?” Football and Philosophy. Ed. Michael Austin. The University Press of Kentucky, 2008. pp 165-180.
  • Sheehan, Joe. “Salary Cap,” Baseball Prospectus. Feb. 19, 2002.

Week 16: Is being a fan moral?

  • Dixon, Nicholas. “The Ethics of Supporting Sports Teams,” Journal of Applied Philosophy, 18, No. 2, 2001, pp 149-158.
  • Mumford, Stephen, “The Philosophy of Sports Fans,” PhilosophyFile, The University of Nottingham, 2011, video.
  • Aikin, Scott F., “Responsible Sports Spectatorship and the Problem of Fantasy Leagues” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 27, No. 2, 2013, pp 195-206.

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New ASU Course: Philosophy of Sport

I’m excited to announce a new online course being offered in Session A of Spring 2018: PHI 394: Philosophy of Sport.

PhilSPortFlyerCourse Description:

An inquiry into philosophical ideas and issues in sport. Topics and readings will vary, but may include: the nature and definition of sport, the mind-body relationship in sport, the effects of technology on sport, epistemological issues in officiating, and the aesthetics of sport. Since our “Sports Ethics” course examines ethical issues in sport, this course will not deal with primarily ethical issues.

 Likely Topics:

  • The Nature and Definition of Sport:
    • Can we, should we, define sport?
    • How does sport relate to: play, games, art?
  • The Mind and Body in Sport:
    • What can we learn about the mind/body relationship from sport?
    • What does sport presupposed about mind and body?
    • What can we learn about epistemology and metaphysics through sport? Does sport presuppose particular theories about reality or knowledge?
  • Technology and Officiating
    • How does technology change the ways we understand and engage in sport?
    • What role should technology have in officiating sports?
    • How do referees, umpires, etc., relate to the rules? What parallels are there to how we might understand law?

This course counts an upper-division elective credit. Talk with your advisor if you are interested in taking this course.

 

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PHI 394: Sports Ethics (Fall 2017)

I will be teaching Sports Ethics at ASU this Fall. For ASU students: this course can be used to meet part of your upper-division elective requirement.

PHI 394: Sports EthicsSlide1

A study of moral issues in sports, including, but not limited to, the value of sport, the nature of sportsmanship, the prohibition of performance-enhancing drugs, the value of fandom, the social effects of sport, and the role of danger and violence in sport.

The class will meet Tuesdays/Thursdays 10:30 – 11:45 am.

Here’s the reading list from Fall 2016 (Bear in mind there will likely be some changes to readings and/or topics): https://sportsethicist.com/2016/08/12/sports-ethics-at-asu-fall-2016/

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Sports Ethics at ASU Fall 2016

Here are the topics and readings for my Sports Ethics this fall at ASU.

What is Sport?
Reid, “Socrates at the Ballpark”

How can Sport affect Society?
Eig,  Excerpt from Opening Day;
Leavy, Excerpt from Sandy Koufax;
The 16th Man (Video)

What is Sportsmanship?
Keating, “Sportsmanship as a Moral Category”;
Feezell, “Sportsmanship”

Is it ethical to run up the score?
Dixon, “On Sportsmanship and ‘Running Up the Score”;
Feezell, “Sportmanship and Blowouts: Baseball and Beyond”

Is it wrong to foul?
Fraleigh, “Intentional rules violations”;
Simon, “The ethics of strategic fouling”

Is competition moral?
Kretchmar, “In Defense of Winning”;
Simon, “The Critique of Competition in Sports”;
Kohn, “Fun and Fitness w/o competition”

Is violence in sport okay?
Dixon, “A Critique of Violent Retaliation in Sport” ;
Zakhem,  “The Virtues of a Good Fight”

Should football be banned?
Russell,  “The Value of Dangerous Sport” ;
Sailors,  “Personal Foul: an evaluation of moral status of football”

Should PEDs be banned?
Savulescu and Devine, Oxford Debate: PED;
Simon,”Good competition and drug-enhanced performance”;
Hemphill, “Performance enhancement and drug control in sport ethical considerations”

What is the role of money in sport?
Duncan, “Does A-Rod Deserve So Much Money? Yes!”;
Shuman, “Does A-Rod Deserve So Much Money? No!”;
Collins, “Does the Salary Cap Make the NFL a Fairer League?”;
Sheehan, “Salary Cap”;

Is it ethical to be a sports fan?
Dixon, “The Ethics of supporting sports teams”;
The Philosophy of Sports Fan by Stephen Mumford (videos);
Aikin, “Responsible Sports Spectatorship and the Problem of Fantasy Leagues”

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PHI 394: Sports Ethics (Fall 2016)

SportsEthicsFall2016After having taught Sports Ethics at Rockford University for many years, I’m bringing Sports Ethics to ASU this Fall.

PHI 394: Sports Ethics

A study of moral issues in sports, including, but not limited to, the value of sport, the nature of sportsmanship, the prohibition of performance-enhancing drugs, the value of fandom, the social effects of sport, and the role of danger and violence in sport.

The class will meet Tuesdays/Thursdays 10:30 – 11:45 am.

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Sports Ethics Fall 2014

The semester has started up at Rockford University and I am teaching Sports Ethics again. I thought I would post the syllabus for anyone who was interested:

PHI 223 Sports Ethics Fall 2014

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Sports Ethics: Five Years Running

School starts up again this week, and for the fifth Fall Semester in a row, I am offering my course on Sports Ethics. This semester, I have two sections totaling almost 50 students! By rough guesstimation, 200 students have taken my Sports Ethics class while at Rockford College. I thought I’d post a little bit about the course.

I like to start the course with Heather Reid’s article “Socrates at the Ballpark” from Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter’s Box
. It is a fun, quick introduction to philosophic thinking by way of comparing it to baseball (though much of what she says is applicable to sport in general).

From there I usually have gone directly into a definitional exercise of what sport is and then into the concept of sportsmanship. This semester, I am shaking things up a bit and moving up to the front the unit on how sports affect society. Through Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, and Nelson Mandela (ESPN Films 30 for 30: The Sixteenth Man
), we discuss many of the positive ways sport has influenced society. I think this helps get the students thinking about the moral and social implications of sports. After that, we move into the nature of sports and sportsmanship.

Then we discuss sportsmanship in action: is running up the score unsportsmanlike? What about intentional or strategic fouls? Students tend to get the most engaged in these units because many of them have direct and personal experience with the subject matter. Every athlete (and fan) has been on both sides of a blowout. The unit on intentional fouls is always fun because it is the first time in the semester that I typically see the students begin to think outside of their own experiences. The athletes have experience with strategic fouls, especially if they play basketball. But they have not usually asked whether these kinds of fouls are ethical; merely accepting them as part of the game. Watching many of the students begin to rethink aspects of their own play and life is what teaching is all about.

After this, we examine the nature of competition and winning itself. This raises important questions about the relationship of cooperation and competition, and on the moral value of winning and achieving.

Next in line is a new unit on violence in sport. I have long planned to include a unit on violence, but with “Bounty-gate” and concussions in the news so much, it seemed the right time. We are going to watch ESPN Films 30 for 30: Muhammad & Larry
which is about the controversial Muhammed Ali and Larry Holmes title fight in 1980. This raises important questions about the propriety and value of dangerous, violent sports (Note: I am going to be posting a blog on that very subject in a few days).

It wouldn’t be a sports ethics class without a discussion of PEDs; and so, we will spend some time discussing the various arguments for and against PED prohibition in sport. This is followed by a discussion, focused on Oscar Pistorius, about disabled athletes competing against able-bodied. I find this juxtaposition worthwhile because many of the arguments against PEDs seem like they could apply to Oscar. This encourages a more critical analysis of these arguments.

Then one of my favorite units: the ethics of fandom. I am not an athlete. I am a fan (Go Patriots!!), so I connect most personally to the questions here. The main question we focus on is whether partisan fandom—your typical die-hard fan of a team (Go Red Sox!!)—is morally acceptable. Since most people, including myself (Go Bruins!!), are partisan fans this discussion is usually fairly heated (Go Celtics!!).

We close out the semester with several discussions on ethical issues that arise around economics and sports. We discuss the ethical justifications of salary caps in professional sports leagues as well as the high salaries of elite professional athletes. And, if time, we discuss the issue of paying elite college athletes.

Below is a short video produced in 2008 for promoting the first version of Sports Ethics. I mention some topics here that I no longer directly include, but thought people might still find it interesting.

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