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Baseball and Philosophy

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Here’s an excellent article about baseball and philosophy that is worth reading. There’s something about the great game of baseball that makes one contemplative. Perhaps it’s the pace of the game, which can, at times, be languid that gives baseball a philosophical edge. It’s hard to pin what exactly makes baseball so philosophical, but the article’s author, Kieran Setiya, a professor of philosophy, does a good job.

Kieran explains succinctly:

Baseball is the most philosophical of games because, like philosophy at its best, it harmonizes meaning with meticulous analysis. There is no opposition between wonder at the double play, the home run, or the perfect game and the statistical dissection now known as “sabermetrics” (after SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research). In fact, it is the arithmetic and geometry of the game that best disclose its truth. The highest aspiration of philosophy is to be both rigorous and humanistic, to place analytical thought in the service of human values. Baseball shows us that it can be done.

No other sport can make this claim even with the invasion of data analytics into executive suites of every major sports franchise, from football to hockey. It’s no longer the exception but the rule. Nevertheless, baseball has always been (and probably always will be), where numbers reign supreme. Even the old-school guys, who eschew “sabermetrics” and mock Moneyball-like thinking, still rely on outdated statistics like hits, runs, RBIs, etc. In essence, the meaning – or truth— of baseball is hidden within the numbers.

Kieran finishes his essay with the following:

Some treat baseball as an allegory for life or for a perilous journey in which, if we are lucky, we make it safely home. For me, it is an allegory for philosophy at its best: humanistic but rigorous, historically informed. We do not have to choose between humanity and rigour, between progress in solving problems and engagement with history. In fact, you can’t have any of these without the others. Baseball’s romance with advanced statistics is not a rejection of its past but a fulfillment, not an indifference to meaning but a better interpretation. That is a condition to which philosophy should aspire.

Baseball is a sport that lends itself to deep analysis because it’s not a fast game. There’s no clock in baseball. Every pitch can tell you something. Each plate appearance can be a moment of discovery. The shifting of infielders with each batter at the plate. It’s all a calculation that, hopefully, and meaningfully, will lead to a profound answer of some kind, both for the player and the fan.

 

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Written by niraj

October 25th, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Posted in red sox

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