Photo of a golf ball

Golf as Meaningful Play at Central APA

Shawn Klein was the chair of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport’s session at the APA Central Division Meeting in March 2017 in Kansas City.  I spoke with Shawn about his reflections on the session.  

Shawn, for those who weren’t able to make it, can you tell me about the session that you chaired? 

The session was an Author Meets Critics on Golf As Meaningful Play: A Philosophical Guide (forthcoming) by W. Thomas Schmid (University of North Carolina at Wilmington). Dr. Schmid’s book looks at golf as play, game, sport, and spectacle, discusses golf’s heroes, communities, and traditions, and analyzes the role of the virtues in golf, linking them to self-fulfillment, the ultimate good of golf experience. This book is part of Lexington Books’ Studies in the Philosophy of Sport series, of which I am series editor.  We had three critics: Seth Bordner (University of Alabama), Francisco Javier Lopez Frias (Pennsylvania State University and Rock Ethics Institute), and Pamela Sailors (Missouri State University). Dr. Sailors couldn’t make it due to a scheduling conflict, but I read her comments.

The session was organized for the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, the main professional organization for philosophers of sport and is “committed to stimulate, encourage, and promote research, scholarship, and teaching in the philosophy of sport and related practices”.

What do you think were the most interesting points that were addressed during the session?

Many of the criticisms focused on whether Schmid’s account of golf sufficiently made the case: (1) that the nature of golf itself can provide a basis for rejecting the exclusionary and discriminatory practices in golf’s history; and (2) that an understanding of golf based on Aristotelian conceptions of virtues and eudaimonia can be achieved that avoids those exclusionary practices.

Acknowledging that more could have been said, Schmid pointed out that the book does attempt to address these concerns in various places and that he presents an extended critique of the exclusionary practices in golf’s past and present.

One question that we discussed for a good chunk of the session was whether a good person would play golf–or any sport. This brought out discussions about the purpose and role of sport in general in the good human life.

What are some areas for further research on this topic?

Two areas that jumped out for further research from the session were: (1) a deeper look at gender issues in golf (and sport in general); and (2) more fleshing out of ways an Aristotelian influenced theory of sport helps shed light on the various competing contemporary theories of sport: broad internalism, formalism, and conventionalism.

What do you hope participants will take away from the session?

One of the foremost take ways that I hope for is the recognition that philosophy of sport provides a fruitful ground for inquiring into many important philosophical questions: race, gender, and class issues; the nature of social constructions and institutions; the grounding and application of ethical norms and principles; and the sources of meaning in lives.

Photo of Shawn KleinShawn E. Klein, Ph.D., is a lecturer at Arizona State University and blogger at SportsEthicist.com. He’s editor of several books including Defining Sport: Conceptions and Borderlines (Lexington 2016) and Steve Jobs and Philosophy (Open Court 2015). He also edits the book series Studies in the Philosophy of Sport from Lexington Books.

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