Sport and Philosophy – In the Zone
The latest volume of the Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, Philosophy and Sport, is a collection of lectures from the Institute’s 2012-3 annual lecture series. With contributions from members of both philosophical and sporting communities, the collection touches on a number of philosophical questions raised by sport.
One of the volume’s contributors, David Papineau, is very interested in the mental side of sport and his paper ‘In the Zone’ considers what causes skilled sportsmen and women to sometimes do the wrong thing at crucial points in play.
Professor Papineau draws on a number of sporting incidents to develop an account of the peculiar mental demands made by competitive sports. He starts with the case of Mark Ramprakash throwing his wicket away against Shane Warne in the 3rd test at Trent Bridge in 2001. Were the cricket pundits right to blame the shot on a ‘moment of weakness’ or a ‘distinct lack of composure’? Or did Ramprakash simply make a bad decision? In the end, David Papineau concludes that ‘Ramprakash’s demise wasn’t due to an unsuccessful strategic ploy, but to a fatal failure of concentration.’
Other incidents analysed in the paper include Jana Novotna ‘choking’ in the 1993 Wimbledon final against Steffi Graf despite a 4-1 lead in the final set and Eric Bristow’s case of the ‘yips’, which sent his darts career into terminal decline in 1987.
Click here to access the full paper.
We also encourage you to visit David Papineau’s new blog ‘More Important Than That’, which aims to explore a variety of ways in which philosophy can illuminate sport, and vice versa.