Wednesday 10th February 15:00 GMT
Murray Smith (Professor of Film, University of Kent; ARC Director)
The coronavirus pandemic starkly dramatizes a striking and paradoxical feature of sport in general, and football in particular, at the centre of Steffen Borge’s penetrating study of the so-called beautiful game, The Philosophy of Football (Routledge, 2019): the fact that for all those with a stake in the game, it means everything; and yet at the same time it doesn’t really matter at all. Call this the paradox of football: how can we come to care so much about something that doesn’t really matter? Borge argues that our passionate engagement with football has a fictional character, involving the pretence that the outcome of matches and the fortunes of teams and players matter. In this he follows – in spirit and outline if not in all details – Kendall Walton’s influential theory of fiction as make-belief. On Walton’s account, fictions prompt powerful affective states which, though keenly felt, are but ‘quasi-emotions’: affects borne of games of pretence. I explore Borge’s view, point to some problems, and advance an alternative solution to the paradox inspired by psychologist Abraham Maslow’s once influential, but nowadays largely neglected, ‘hierarchy of needs’ model. It is no pretence that (such things as) football matter to us. We genuinely value football, but to see how this is true, we need a more fine-grained and multi-dimensional account of what we value than a stark divide between the world of ordinary action, and the ‘extra-ordinary’ world of play and pretence, allows.
A full draft of the paper is available as a pre-read for this event. Those with interest are encouraged to contact Prof. Smith ahead of the event; firstname.lastname@example.org