The ethos of sporting games : fair play and elite women's cricket
The recent intellectual movement away from universalism towards particularism can be witnessed in most divisions of social philosophical thought. Such a paradigmatic shift has radically transformed a number of theories including feminist ethics. In contrast, however, philosophical analyses of fairness in sport have retained allegiance to universalist accounts in that conceptions of fair play remain enshrined in formalist accounts of the nature of rules and laws that govern sporting games. In this thesis, it is argued that universalist accounts of fair play in sport are incomplete in so far as they fail to consider that what constitutes fairness in sport is more than just the interpretation of formal rule structures. The richer analysis of fair play in sport offered here highlights the importance of individual experiences and the structures that shape those experiences. The ethical investigation is compatible with certain feminist ethical commitments. In order to evaluate whether a given sporting ethos is ethical, the thesis is committed methodologically to a mixed model approach. The aim is to find out the beliefs, values and ideologies of the people involved. Hence, a context-respectful methodology collecting and utilising thick descriptions is employed. It is argued that an ethical ethos has no room for intentional rule violation. For a given ethos to be ethical its game must be practised in a certain way with a certain attitude. The evaluation in this thesis concludes that the ethos of English elite women's cricket is unethical. It is hoped that a potential outcome of the thesis will be a different understanding of fair play that may shape new forms of ethical enquiry and challenge existing methodologies. Argument: (1) In sport philosophical literature fair play has been characteristically understood in one way: the formalist account of the nature of rules and laws. (2) While it is true that one can not talk about fair play without reference to the rules and laws of an activity, this account is incomplete since it fails to consider ethos. (3) Part of what an ethos means derives from the beliefs, values and ideologies of players themselves who have constructed agreements as to how the game ought to be enacted. (4) To understand fair play in elite women's cricket, therefore, one must understand the rules and laws but also, crucially, its ethos.