Fair Play in Sport: A Moral Norm System

By Sigmund Loland | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5

Fair play in sport competitions

A moral norm system

My aim here has been to suggest moral norms to guide actions in sport competitions. I have pursued this aim by suggesting a particular interpretation of the ideal of fair play. As a point of departure I referred to a traditional understanding of the ideal. 'Formal' fair play is commonly understood as a set of norms for rule conformity and justice. 'Informal' fair play prescribes competing with effort and devotion and with respect for other persons engaged. In order to examine in a critical and systematic way whether, and eventually how, these ideals can be justified, I developed a moral point of view that included a consequentialist norm II inspired by utilitarian reasoning, and a non-consequentialist norm III for justice. Fairness norm 1 was articulated against the background of norm III for justice and gives 'formal' fair play a more detailed interpretation and justification. The play norm 2 was articulated with the help of the consequentialist norm II and is designed to maximize 'the good' in competitions. Norm 2 can be seen as a re-articulation and justification of 'informal' fair play.

In this way, I have worked within the framework of a mixed ethical theory with potential conflict between its main norms. So my moral point of view also included the meta-norm I, which served as a testing ground for cases of conflict and for the reasonableness of my conclusions. Following a contractualist line of reasoning, I have sought norms that 'no one can reject as a basis for unforced, informed general agreement'.

Methodologically, I have been looking for a reflective equilibrium where systematically developed norms and first-order moral beliefs cohere and mutually support each other. To reach such equilibrium has involved a process of constantly weighing different considerations. Sometimes, such as in Chapter 3 where I discussed classification of competitors, I found that there were cases in which moral beliefs and current practice violate the norm for equal opportunity to perform. More specific norms were formulated in order to provide a guide to better practice. In other cases, such as when I discussed the idea of the even matching of competitors, theoretically deduced norms and first-order beliefs cohered and supported each other. The norms I have formulated, then, can be regarded as a systematic articulation of fair play in


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