Aesthetic sports: the importance of judgement

Best’s presentation of the purposive/aesthetic contrast emphasizes the nature of the goal or target of the sport: that for the purposive it is, and for the aesthetic is not, independent of the manner of achieving that goal or target, as long as it is within the rules.

For us, the emphasis falls on the manner of awarding points (and so on): is it simply a matter of determining whether, say, the ball entered the net, or of how far was thrown or jumped, or (again) how long a time was taken to run a certain distance (or, more likely, which competitor covered the distance in the least time)?

Or does it depend on the informed judgement of an observer, such as a referee or umpire, determining the manner of the performance of the activity, as it must for aesthetic sports? In respect of aesthetic sports at least, then, there is an additional need for, and role assigned to, umpires, referees and the like: namely, the role of determining the manner in which the activity was performed, and in scoring it accordingly.

As a shorthand, I shall say that, for such sports, the scoring necessarily involves the judgement of the umpire or referee. Due weight must be given to the ‘necessarily’ here: that there is no possibility of determining whether the performance was satisfactory, and (if so) to what degree, generating what score, other than by someone, or some group of ‘someones’, looking and seeing.

For what must be determined includes the manner in which the actions were performed, and – like our seeing the young or old woman in our multiple figure (p. 95) – this can only be achieved in that way, since it involves recognizing salient features of the actions. Was this triple toe-loop jump in figure skating cleanly landed? Was the height in the air appropriate, and was the leg extension full enough?

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