Sport, Make-Believe, and Volatile Attitudes


The outcomes of sports and competitive games excite intense emotions in many people, even when those same people acknowledge that those outcomes are of trifling importance. I call this incongruity between the judged importance of the outcome and the intense reactions it provokes the Puzzle of Sport. The puzzle can be usefully compared to another puzzle in aesthetics: the Paradox of Fiction, which asks how it is we become emotionally caught up with events and characters we know to be unreal. In this article, I examine the prospects of understanding our engagement with competitive games on the model of our engagement with works of fiction, thus enabling analogous explanations for both puzzles. I show that there are significant problems with such an approach and offer an alternative, mobilizing ideas from David Velleman and Thomas Nagel, that appeals to the volatility of our motivational attitudes.

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Author's Profile

Nils-Hennes Stear
Universität Hamburg

References found in this work

Mimesis as Make-Believe.Kendall L. Walton - 1996 - Synthese 109 (3):413-434.
Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts.Kendall L. Walton - 1990 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49 (2):161-166.
The Absurd.Thomas Nagel - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (20):716-727.
How Can We Be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina.Colin Radford & Michael Weston - 1975 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 49 (1):67 - 93.

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Citations of this work

Games and the Art of Agency.C. Thi Nguyen - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (4):423-462.
Emotion in Fiction: State of the Art.Stacie Friend - 2022 - British Journal of Aesthetics 62 (2):257-271.
Don’T Stop Make-Believing.Nathan Wildman - 2019 - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 46 (2):261-275.
Do You Really Hate Tom Brady? Pretense and Emotion in Sport.Joseph G. Moore - 2019 - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 46 (2):244-260.

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