Do you really hate Tom Brady? Pretense and emotion in sport

Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 46 (2):244-260 (2019)


ABSTRACTAs sports fans, we often experience what seem to be strong garden-variety emotions—everything from joy and euphoria to anger, dread and despair. In self-description, in physiology and even in phenomenology, these reactions to sporting events present themselves as genuine emotions. But we don’t act on these ‘sporting emotions’ in the ways one might expect. This is because these reactions are not genuine emotions. Or so I argue. Johan Huizinga suggested that play has a pretend ‘set aside’ ‘extra-ordinary’ character. And Kendall Walton has argued that make-believe is involved in our emotional responses to fiction, as well as to sport. Here I articulate and extend the idea that sporting emotions centrally involve pretense and make-believe in ways that can meet some forceful objections. These extensions draw on a ‘double-consciousness’ I claim to find in the pretense of play. I end by saying why the proper characterization of our sporting emotions is important.

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Joseph Moore
Amherst College

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