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In sports (especially boxing) fans love to rank the best boxers, players or

In sports (especially boxing) fans love to rank the best boxers, players or teams. So when ranking the Greatest Boxers of All-Time -- is it ethical to include boxers you or anyone else (alive) have never seen before (for no footage exists of them - e.g., Harry Greb)? (Provided that you put in as much research as possible - e.g., books, news archives, boxing historians writings.)

I am a professional boxing writer who has to vote on who gets into the Boxing Hall of Fame so this question certainly resonates with me. With your mention of Harry Greb it is clear that you know your boxing because based on his record and opposition there are many of us who believe he is one of the greatest of all time. But is it legitimate to rank fighters from different eras-- or teams. Not if you imagine "legitimate" implies that there is some science behind it. But I think it is legitimate if you take your ratings with two grains of salt -- maybe 3. You look at a boxers overall ledger and whom he or she competed against. Fighters from the modern era such as Floyd Mayweather, will end their careers with 1/4 -1/3 the contests of a Sugar Ray Robinson - is it legitimate to compare them? Yes and no, but if no, it can be great fun. And perhaps from a Pragmatist vantage point that makes it legit. Thanks.

I'll admit to being intrigued by the question because it may not seem clear at first what the ethical issue is. We might say: everyone knows that these lists are matters of opinion; in any likely scenario, it's hard to see much harm coming of it. That said, I think there's a little more to the matter. Perhaps we could come at at this way: suppose I put someone on a list like this without doing any serious research. If the setting is a bunch of boxing fans shooting the breeze, it seems like a small sin if it's a sin at all. I know that no one places any serious stock in what's said, and they know that I know this, and so on. But even in a case like this, issues of character come up. I may still be speaking without regard for the truth; in Harry Frankfurt's language, I may be bullsh*tting. Being a bullsh*tter is a kind of a vice; the kinds of people we tend to admire have due regard for the truth, even in small matters. And if it's not just a matter of running my mouth over a beer at the bar but...

I am a soccer fanatic. I watch as much soccer as possible. So it was no question

I am a soccer fanatic. I watch as much soccer as possible. So it was no question that I saw the Women's World Cup Final. But as I watched the US play Japan in the Women's World Cup Final, I became aware later in the game that I was rooting for Japan just out of compassion because of their recent natural disaster. Also, it looked like Japan needed the win more than the US. As someone who is born in the US, is it wrong to root for the opposing team out of empathy?

Not wrong at all, I'd say.

The only reason I can think of for thinking otherwise is that it would amount to not being loyal to one's country. We can agree that there are at least some kinds of loyalty we can normally expect from a good citizen. (Not committing treason is the most obvious example.) That said, it would be very bad if the demands of loyalty went all the way to which side you root for in a sporting match. That would be well down the road to mindless jingoism.

In one way it's a small point, but it has some real-life relevance. Noisy, thoughtless accusations of being "unpatriotic" are a far-too-familiar part of political discourse. If we worry that rooting for another country in a soccer match crosses the line, then the worry that we shouldn't disagree with any of our country's policies will seem all too real. That, however, is a disaster for thoughtful citizenship.

So root for the team of your choice. Root for them because they're the underdog, or because you like the way they play, or because you like the color of their jerseys. It is, after all, just a game. And you are, after all, not just a citizen of the United States but also of the world.

Not wrong at all, I'd say. The only reason I can think of for thinking otherwise is that it would amount to not being loyal to one's country. We can agree that there are at least some kinds of loyalty we can normally expect from a good citizen. (Not committing treason is the most obvious example.) That said, it would be very bad if the demands of loyalty went all the way to which side you root for in a sporting match. That would be well down the road to mindless jingoism. In one way it's a small point, but it has some real-life relevance. Noisy, thoughtless accusations of being "unpatriotic" are a far-too-familiar part of political discourse. If we worry that rooting for another country in a soccer match crosses the line, then the worry that we shouldn't disagree with any of our country's policies will seem all too real. That, however, is a disaster for thoughtful citizenship. So root for the team of your choice. Root for them because they're the underdog, or because you like the way they...

I wonder what is the philosophical significance of sports? Some people play

I wonder what is the philosophical significance of sports? Some people play sports for competition, some others play for exercise while some play only for fun. Generally speaking westerners like competing while easterners like exercising. So British people invented soccer and Americans like basketball while Indians like Yoga and Chinese play Taichi. Why do people take such pains with their bodies to play an activity which would produce no any tangible outcome? I wonder. BTW, I think sports are the least activity man has ever invented.

Sean has correctly pointed out that part of what you are asking calls for empirical answers. But your last sentence - about sports being the least thing humans ace invented - raises an issue of value. And what you seem to be saying is that since sports produce no tangible outcome, in your words, it's hard to see what their value could be.

I'd like to suggest that this isn't the best way to look at the matter. After all, why are activities that produce tangible results (making shoes, or painting pictures, or building houses) valuable? The plausible answer is that they contribute in some way or another to human welfare, happiness, or flourishing. Some things we need for basic survival - food for example. But a flourishing life calls for a lot more than mere survival. And if something is a reliable source of otherwise harmless pleasure, that pretty clearly gives it value.

I suggest that this gives us at least part of the answer to your question. Playing sports gives many people a great deal of complex enjoyment. (Exercises of skill tend to do that, or so the psychologists tell us.) But watching sports also provides people with a good deal of pleasure - as do listening to music, looking at paintings, and a great many other activities.

Not everyone enjoys sports, but that doesn't take away from the point. After all, not everyone appreciates Beethoven. And the fact that sports are reliable sources of pleasure need by no means be the end of the story. But I'd suggest it goes a long way towards taking the mystery out of the value question.

Sean has correctly pointed out that part of what you are asking calls for empirical answers. But your last sentence - about sports being the least thing humans ace invented - raises an issue of value. And what you seem to be saying is that since sports produce no tangible outcome, in your words, it's hard to see what their value could be. I'd like to suggest that this isn't the best way to look at the matter. After all, why are activities that produce tangible results (making shoes, or painting pictures, or building houses) valuable? The plausible answer is that they contribute in some way or another to human welfare, happiness, or flourishing. Some things we need for basic survival - food for example. But a flourishing life calls for a lot more than mere survival. And if something is a reliable source of otherwise harmless pleasure, that pretty clearly gives it value. I suggest that this gives us at least part of the answer to your question. Playing sports gives many people a great deal of...