Agent-regret and sporting glory

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Abstract

When sporting agents fail through wrongful or faulty behaviour, they should feel guilty; when they fail because of a deficiency in their abilities, they should feel shame. But sometimes we fail without being deficient and without being at fault. I illustrate this with two examples of players, Moacir Barbosa and Roberto Baggio, who failed in World Cup finals and cost their teams the greatest prize in sport. Although both players failed, I suggest that neither was at fault and neither was deficient. I argue that we can fail through no fault of our own because our abilities are always fallible. This fallibility means that to succeed – to achieve sporting glory – we must run the risk of failure. The appropriate emotion to feel over such failures is agent-regret. Sporting agents and observers should not take up what I call the ‘critical position’: the idea that someone who fails must be deficient or must have been at fault. This allows for a softer, but also more accurate, attitude towards our own failures and the failures of others. I end by suggesting that the fallibility of our abilities is made clear through playing or watching sport, and this can illuminate life more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-176
Number of pages15
JournalJOURNAL OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPORT
Volume46
Issue number2
Early online date6 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2019

Keywords

  • Agent-regret
  • Bernard Williams
  • Joseph Raz
  • failure
  • guilt
  • shame

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