Category Archives: Classes

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):

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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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Filed under Arizona State, Classes, Sports Ethics, Sports Studies

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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