Formalism and Sport

Authored by: Scott Kretchmar

Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Sport

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415829809
eBook ISBN: 9780203466261
Adobe ISBN: 9781134119141


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In certain philosophic circles, formalism has something of a bad name. 1 It has been described as narrow, insufficient, inflexible, and counter-intuitive. It is said to be a philosophic position that has implausible implications and one that serves as a home for hidden essentialisms. It is also thought to lack critical resources for adjudicating issues not clearly covered by the rules on which it relies and, partly because of this, has little if any normative potency. Some have argued that a formalist account of sport underplays its aesthetic components by portraying it more as craft than art, as having a grammar and syntax but no semantics. Even for those who argue that formalist perspectives shed some light on games and game playing, such assets are thought to pale in comparison to those found in rival positions – most notably conventionalism or critical ethnocentrism and broad internalism or, as it is also sometimes called, interpretivism. 2

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