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William John Morgan's ethics of sport


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Škerbić, Matija Mato. (2019). William John Morgan's ethics of sport. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Philosophy.
(PDS Filozofija) [mentor Čović, Ante].

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The focus of this paper is the work of William John Morgan, American sports philosopher and professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA, in the field of the ethics of sport. Morgan is one of the “founding fathers” of the discipline established in the United States of America and Canada in 1972, present in scientific discourse and literature for more than 40 years, making important contributions and impacts. In the paper, the author investigates four hypotheses about Morgan's ethics of sport. The first hypothesis is that William John Morgan had a decisive influence on the development of a global philosophy of sport by introducing Alasdair MacIntyre's theses presented in the book After Virtue. A Study in Moral Theory. The second hypothesis, closely related to the first one, is that W. J. Morgan is firstly an internalist, and then secondly a conventionalist situated in the historical and social framework. Moreover, he is the ‘father’ of internalism or the founder of the widely used and influential normative theory of sport, commonly accepted in the variant called ‘broad internalism or interpretivism’, developed by Robert L. Simon and John S. Russell. Thus, Morgan's position should be qualified as ‘historicistic conventionalist internalism’. The third hypothesis is that Morgan has influenced the shaping of the modern ethics of sports contours and field divisions, through his edited anthologies. The fourth hypothesis is that Morgan finds sport practice communities the universal solution for all the problems of contemporary sports. Specifically, the paper is structured into six chapters, with addition of the introduction and conclusion: 1) What is sport – defining or conceptualizing?; 2) Philosophy of sport – historical genealogy; 3) William John Morgan – contours and divisions of the ethics of sport; 4) Internalism in sport – William J. Morgan and Alisdair Macintyre; 5) “Sport practice communities“; 6) Final overview: W. J. Morgan as an original philosopher of sport. In the first chapter, the author deals with the question of what sport is. In that regard, he turns to the sport-philosophical literature presenting the most influential answers thus far. Bernard H. Suits' book The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia stands out as the most prominent one. Moreover, it seems that the whole sports-philosophical community and the pertaining literature leans on Suits' distinctions and definitions of ‘the tricky triad’ - game, play and sport. First is his definition of play: ‘x is playing if and only if x has made a temporary reallocation to autotelic activities of resources primarily committed to instrumental purposes’. Second is his description of games as goal directed activities made of four elements: 1) pre-lusory goal or the “object of the game”; 2) lusory goal or winning and/or scoring; 3) lusory rules or constitutional rules; and 4) lusory attitude or conscious acceptance of the rules by players. Third is his view on sport as a kind of game, that he defines as “voluntary attempt[s] to overcome unnecessary obstacles”. Moreover, the author shows the problems with the definitions and concludes, leaning on the work of G. McFee, that we cannot define sport clearly and unequivocally. Thus, he is going in the other direction – of conceptualizing it by looking for the essential elements and features of sport: testing and contesting (S. Kretchmar), internal values (W. J. Morgan, J. S. Russell, R. L. Simon), spirit of sport (M. McNamee), human + physical + skills + contest / competition + rule-governed + institutionalized (J. S. Parry). In the second chapter, in order to provide the proper context for his four hypotheses, the author is making one of the rare attempts to make a comprehensive historical overview of the philosophy of sport discipline in the literature so far. The author divides specific history into three major periods that he calls: 1) 'antique period' – in which the author finds work of Homer, Pindar, Plato and Aristotle as the most important; 2) 'pre-disciplinary period' – where he distinguishes the history of philosophy phase from the theory of sport phase in the 19th and 20th century; and 3) 'disciplinary period'. Within the latter, the author proposes 1972 as the starting point of the discipline for six reasons. Moreover, the author makes a short overview of the most influential bibliographical efforts in the development of the discipline, as well as its two most important subdisciplines – ethics of sport and bioethics of sport. In such a way, he is able to show, in a clear manner, the role and presence of W. J. Morgan in the historical development of the discipline. In the third chapter, the author confirms the first hypothesis on Morgan – that he has influenced the shaping of the modern ethics of sports contours and field divisions. In order to do that, the author uses six W. J. Morgan's edited anthologies: Sport and the Body: a Philosophical Symposium published in 1979, Philosophic Inquiry in Sport in 1987 and 1995, and Ethics in Sport published in 2001, 2007 and 2017. In them, the author finds Morgan's fourfold division of the fields of the ethics of sport. These four global fields are - competition, enhancements, gender, and social issues. Secondly, the author takes seven different editions of the ethics of sport, which were most considered and accepted in the field, written and edited by J. Parry in 1998, M. McNamee in 1998 and 2010, J. Boxill in 2004, R. Simon in 1998, 2004, 2010, and 2015 and C. Torres and P. Hager in 2015. In them, the author finds very similar field division, with a few differences. Most of them just place more emphasis on specific topics or issues from Morgan's earlier fourfold division. In the fourth chapter, the author investigates two connected hypotheses on Morgan: on the one hand, that Morgan has introduced normative conception of internalism to sports philosophy, which makes him the 'father of internalism', through introducing A. MacIntyre's views of social practice to sports-philosophy; and on the other hand, that Morgan isn't a conventionalist, but an conventionalistic internalist or even more precise – historicistic conventionalist internalist. The author introduces the formalist and conventionalist account of sport, together with their problems, as a logical and necessary introduction to internalism. Secondly, the author presents three variants of internalism – W. J. Morgan's 'MacIntyre internalism', J. S. Russell's 'interpretivism' and R. L. Simon's 'broad internalism'. Morgan's conception leans on MacIntyre's distinctions between social institutions and social practice, and internal and external goods and values of social practices. In that way, the author confirms his first hypothesis that Morgan has turned the course of development of the sports-philosophy discipline, which from this moment on considers sport as a specific form of social practice that has its own specific internal goods and values. Thirdly, the author also confirms the second hypothesis by presenting Morgan's invocation of conventionalism to contextualize, historicize and socialize interpretivism or broad internalist abstract rational account of sport. In that way, Morgan has started and developed his 'historicistic conventionalist internalism’. In the fifth chapter, the author provides the rationale for the fourth hypothesis on Morgan - that sport-practice community is the key solutions for all the problems of contemporary sports. In that regard, the author presents something that can be called 'Morgan's economic ethics of sport' presented mostly in the book Why Sport Morally Matters. Namely, Morgan detects sports practice communities as carriers of the internal goods and values of sport, together with history and ethos of sport. Morgan describes the case of sport in the United States of America and the penetration process of big capital into it. Morgan sees the domination of market economy in sport, together with the commodification of sport (its transformation into commodities for market economic gains), as the main threat to the integrity of contemporary sport, especially in the moral sense. The only solution, in Morgan's view, is the turn towards sport-practice communities, which is the only element of contemporary sport not subject to corruption, and this is a healthy root to turn to or the foundation to build upon. These communities should operate through deliberation process, which respects sports history, developed and accepted ethos, and social context. In the sixth chapter, the author proposes three hammer stones to properly evaluate and understand Morgan's work in the philosophy and ethics of sport. First, the rejection of all universal ethical positions for being too abstract. Second, the ethnocentric perspective or requirement to always take into account social context and developed ethos when reflecting about sports or developing ethical or philosophical investigations or positions. Third, intramural perspective or the claim to develop all the normative principles within the sports practice among sports practitioners, and not otherwise. Finally, despite the fact that Morgan made many contributions to the field of philosophy and ethics of sport, the most problematic seems to be the level of originality of them. Namely, his most important and the most recognizable contributions – introducing the distinction between internal and external values in sport and making emphasis on internal ones, on the one hand, and usage of famous expressions “gratuitous logic of sport“, which perfectly describes sport, are not his, but borrowed from MacIntyre and Suits.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: sport, ethics of sport, William John Morgan, Alasdair MacIntyre internalism, conventionalism, contours and divisions of the ethics of sport, sport practice communities, ethnocentrism
Subjects: Philosophy
Departments: Department of Philosophy
Supervisor: Čović, Ante
Additional Information: PDS Filozofija
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2019 08:26
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2019 08:26

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