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Sports & XY

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One basic ethical concern in sports is creating fair categories of competition. Age is a non-controversial example of this: elementary school teams do not compete against high school teams because that would be unfair to the elementary school team. Size is also a relatively non-controversial example in boxing—a heavyweight fighter will generally have a significant advantage over a smaller fighter. But there is a challenge in developing a good principle of category fairness. After all, there are many factors that can provide one category of athletes an advantage over others that intuitively should not be the basis of categorizing athletes to create fair competition. As an obvious example, some people naturally have anatomies and physiologies that give them an advantage over other athletes. To illustrate, a runner with an ideal body type for running and excellent genetics for speed and endurance will have a significant advantage over someone with a body type that is biomechanically terrible for running and whose genes lack those advantages. One could also consider psychological factors (such as determination) and even economic factors (which can affect diet, coaching, and available training time). While trying to adjust for these factors would make competition fairer, it does lead to a reductio ad absurdum: the ultimate in fairness would be for each person to be in their own category, competing against only themselves. That is, there would be no competition. The other extreme would be to have no categories at all (somewhat of a state of nature scenario in sports): everyone competes with everyone regardless of such factors as age, gender, or weight. This could even be fair: everyone is competing without distinction and the best will emerge victorious. But this would also be absurd (and dangerous): imagine elementary school students playing tackle football against the Patriots. It can also be argued that this would be unfair: professional football players enjoy far too. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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