In consideration of the cultural pluralism and moral diversity among all societies it is hard to unify a common moral code in specifically, a competitive sport. This apparent multiplicity of values, morals, and ethics makes it difficult to cultivate a common moral code among all cultures. In the article by Sigmund Loland “Fair play: Historical anachronism or topical ideal” He tackles the struggle to conform a moral and ethical code of conduct for all. As a society we strive for ideals, rules, and guidelines in which to follow to enable play or games, that are rule-governed, to bring about an end in which all parties are satisfied. In an effort to devise a common moral code one must look at the following factors: fairness, ethos and ethics in games, and the why one participates in a particular sport/game.
Fair play entails two norms, formal and informal. “Formal fair play is expressed as a norm on keeping the written rules of the game, whereas informal fair play prescribes a certain attitude towards the game in terms of doing one’s best and respecting one’s opponents.” All games are “rule-governed practices”, these rules, in any culture, are what allow the game to become reality. These rules may be arbitrary among different groups, but are followed nonetheless. In Loland’s fairness argument he believes that rules, “are meaningful only within the practice they conceptualize”. It is not about the rules but the intentional goals behind them. When we decide to participate in a game we are automatically adhering these rules, and vice versa. His fairness norm then concludes:
“ When voluntarily engaged in sport competitions, keep the formal playing rules!”
The problem with this norm as the ideal, is its formalistic approach, it assumes that there is only one way to play the particular game. Unfortunately, rules tend to become ambiguous among differing groups. Considering the grey area in which rules are placed, no game is ultimately defined by its rules but is structured in constitutive elements, which make that particular game. In a formalistic world any non-adherence to games assumes you are not playing that particular game, this does not give room for the ambiguity of the nature rules in games. As beings we enjoy the structure and values realized when participating in play, so non-adherence disrupts the nature of your true intention. This ambiguity of games takes us to the next objective, ethos in games. Adding the element of ethos, adds to the element of fair play. Making a more justifiable fairness norm.
The ethos denotes the common body of norms in which to interpret the rules of the game. Adding to the element of fair play, what is fair play to one group may not be so for another. It is stated:
“The ethos of a game draws distinctions between permissible acts which are in accordance with the rules, acceptable acts in terms of certain rule violations which are considered as “part of the game”, and rule violations which are considered unacceptable.”
This is an important factor when trying to devise a common moral code. It must be realized that unifying a common code will entail also the interpretation of ethos and ethics for each group.
Ethics allow for the distinction between fair ethos and unfair ethos. Lowland uses the example of “it is wrong to prescribe adherence to the ethos of a game if this ethos accepts cheating or infliction of harm or injury on other players.” It should be morally implied that one adhere to basic ethical principles such as, upholding justice, mutual aid, respect, and no intent of injury or harm the anyone. This then leads to anther interpretation of fairness norms:
“When voluntarily engaged in sport competitions, keep the shared ethos of the practice as long as the ethos does not violate basic, ethical principles!”
This is a step forward from the previous norm, it allows for diversity in the playing of the games as it relates to different groups, and takes away the formalistic approach. Rules are ever changing, a “dynamic product of historical process”. As we play games we are discovering new ways to make the performance better, more challenging. We must not formalize our view of games, as this would limit us in our ability to bring about a common moral code for all.
The next question, why is an individual participating in the game? Are the goals internal or external? Internal goals could be that of achieving excitement, joy, or kinesthetic pleasure from a game. Loland states, “The realization of internal goals depends upon the realization of the game according to the shared ethos that conceptualizes it.” In this case, their upholding of what is fair helps drive the individual’s goals. External goals are realized outside of the game, this does not directly result in the adherence to fairness, but can be driven by external desires for prestige or profit. The one commonality between the two is the desire to win. We all play to win, no matter the reason for participation. It is the desired outcome for all sides, in all groups.
As a result of this commonality, Loland then devised not only a fairness norm that states:
“When voluntarily engaged in sport competitions, keep the shared ethos of the practice as long as the ethos does not violate basic, ethical principles and includes a sense of fairness!”
But also a play norm that reads:
“When voluntarily engaged in sport competitions, play to win!”
By adding a play norm this moral code of conduct, I believe, is a much more well rounded approach to the consideration of moral and ethical conduct. It reflects that the rules of the game are always changing, but good ethics is something that is shared all cultures. The idea of respect, justice, mutual aid, the desire to win are universal ideals and are assumed in the norm.
The final fairness and play norms are a great start to producing a unifying moral code. It does not formalize the norms for a particular game, but encompasses why we participate in games and upholds the common underlying factor by which all cultures abide.