Philosophy of Cricket

by Brian on November 10, 2003

Who knew such a thing existed? And who would have guessed that if it did exist, it would exist in Belgium?


The Philosophy of Cricket encompasses a series of reflections upon the nature of cricket, its forms of practice, its history and its influence in shaping the human form physically, emotionally and morally. A recurring theme throughout is the interplay between the matter (what the game is) and spirit of cricket (ideals concerning how one plays the game). What are these ideals and how do they impinge upon cricket’s conditions of existence? Furthermore, is cricket’s ratio essendi exhausted by a set of prescriptive laws or does it encompass a broader ethos, a body of conventions and connotations, a history and tradition that bind the game to realities beyond its constitutive boundaries?

I think it was Louise Vigeant from whom I heard about this collection. If so, thanks Louise! If it was someone else, apologies and thanks. (If I was a real journo-blogger I’d have been taking notes at lunch so I wouldn’t have to make these disjunctive acknowledgments.) Here’s the full call for papers.

Call For Papers

Submissions criteria

Contributions are accepted from a broad range of philosophical disciplines discussing issues relevant to the game of cricket. Possible themes include, but are certainly not limited to, the aesthetics of cricket; ethics in cricket; cricket and the nature of man; cricket and education; cricket and culture, etc. Topics related to broader philosophical themes, such as the phenomenon of sport in general, may also be accepted provided they are predominantly illustrated with examples from cricket. All submissions must be of a philosophical nature, meet high standards of rigour and display an obvious command of the language and subject matter.

Papers should be between 5000 and 8000 words in length, though longer papers of exceptional quality and focus may also be accepted. No papers should exceed 10000 words in length.

All submissions must be written in (British) English and should follow the MLA standards for footnotes, citations and bibliographical references.


Abstracts are to be received by 27 February 2004. The final deadline for submissions is 30 April 2004.


Contributions for review may be sent in electronic form to the editor:

Jeremy McKenna

Institute of Philosophy
Kardinaal Mercierplein 2
B-3000 Leuven

+32 16 326356
+32 16 326311 (f)

UPDATE: Normblog suggests some topics for the collection below. Anyone who wants to write on them should send me their efforts, with appropriate credits to Norm. I think consequential vs deontological approaches to walking might be fun to work out. I think I can will the universalised rule “All batters should walk iff they are playing against Australia or Victoria”, which probably messes up the deontological solution.



sidereal 11.11.03 at 12:03 am

It’s like a collaborative Ken Burns documentary.


Anarch 11.11.03 at 5:49 am

Given that one of the most insightful books I’ve ever read on cricket was by expatriate American Communist Mike Marqusie (sp?), I’m not all that surprised.

…but BELGIUM??


Kieran Healy 11.11.03 at 11:03 am

Aw Belgium, man! Belgium!

Sorry. Giving away my wasted teenage years there.


David Tiley 11.11.03 at 11:33 am

I can imagine a bunch of government officials drinking tea and eating dusty Flemish biscuits and brainstorming:

1. in may there is no sport – its late winter, too early in spring.
2. the outside world is a slimey thawing mess.
3. they need a conference.
4. they need a conference with many many many people, from far away places.
5. many people immerse themselves totally in cricket, so it is like unto a religion.
6. many of these people write about cricket like unto they are writing the Fifth Epistle to the Ephesians, with googlies standing in for the exposed hair of unmarried women in church.
7. such a conference would be obsessive, well attended and peaceful.
8. find a group of academics and give them a grant….

Big mistake. Big, Big mistake. You should see my cricketfanatic friends talking about the game. And Belgian beer is strong..


harry 11.11.03 at 1:22 pm

Mike Marqusee and CLR James, north american Trotskyists both; and the authors of the two best books on the game (IMHO). CLR even has a claim to being a philosopher of sorts.

And its the Flemish part of Belgium, so all is explained — Dutch speakers being the best cricketers outside the British ex-colonies, right?

But Brian, are you going to submit? I’ve been thinking about this sicne I saw your post, and find myself unable to think of anything to write philosophically about cricket. You?


Brian Weatherson 11.11.03 at 2:00 pm

I’ve been trying everything I know to find a decent topic, and not coming up with anything. There’s obviously lots of general issues that are relevant (e.g. events, language, aesthetics, etc) but I couldn’t think of any way of making anything especially relevant to cricket.

Any ideas would be much appreciated!

If I do have an idea of my own I will definitely submit it.


David 11.11.03 at 2:42 pm

Phil of Religion for cricket:

Whether God can throw a googly so convoluted that God cannot hit it?

Call this “the Paradox of the Googly”.

For the googly uninitiated:


rea 11.11.03 at 5:22 pm

Well, as anyone who spends time around toddlers who like Disney movies is well aware, there IS a philosophy of Cricket:

“When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!
When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!

Not just a little squeak, pucker up and blow
And if your whistle’s weak, yell, “Jiminy Cricket!”

Take the straight and narrow path
And if you start to slide
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!
And always let your conscience be your guide”


dsquared 11.11.03 at 6:03 pm

OKeydokey, Mr (Dr/Professor) Weatherson, one suggestion coming up, and it’s even in your general area of expertise …

The Bowler’s Dilemmas

1. (easy) Malcolm Marshall is allowed to bowl two bouncers per over. Furthermore, one can assume that he will only bowl the bouncer if it comes a surprise (otherwise, he’ll be hooked).

Therefore, he can’t bowl his bouncers on the fifth and sixth balls of the over, as you know they’re coming. But that means, by mathematical induction, that he can’t bowl them on the third or fourth balls either, as this won’t be a surprise given that you know they’re not coming on balls five and six. It’s the surprise exam paradox, applied to bowling.

2. (More difficult). Warne is bowling to Gatting. If Warne is bowling the leg-break, the correct thing to do is to come down the wicket. If it’s the googly, however, the only safe thing to do is sweep.

Let us first say that Gatting will certainly be bowled if he tries to sweep the leg-break or come down the wicket to the googly, and will certainly score four if he chooses the right stroke. Let us further say that neither player can adopt a mixed strategy; if they try to do so, the requirement to randomise every time introduces a delay to their action which is fatal. Let us also assume (fairly enough) that Gatting has no chance whatever of picking Warne.

It can be shown (it’s a version of the Holmes-Moriarty Problem that so long as Gatting and Warne can be modelled as Turing Machines, the twin decision problems (leg-break/googly) and (come down/sweep) are formally undecidable.

I mention this because Keynes’ beauty contest is a generalised version of the Holmes-Moriarty problem and I was going to use this as the basis of an objection to your Economica paper on uncertainty in Keynes.




Brian Weatherson 11.11.03 at 7:02 pm

I’m not sure about the assumption Gatting won’t be bowled if he chooses the right stroke is justified!

The linked paper on the Holmes-Moriarty problem is very interesting. I wasn’t at all thinking of incompleteness or undecidability results when I wrote my paper, so I suspect if there are good objections from that angle I’ll have to scramble quite a bit to meet them.

When I wrote that I was more concerned with arguing against those who thought the existence of Keynesian uncertainty implied the existence of some alternative non-Bayesian account of rational action. I probably don’t have as much to say about those who just want fewer constraints on rational action, rather than different constraints. But that’s just what the (non)-solution to the H-M problem suggests – we just shouldn’t be looking for rules of rationality around here, because nothing is both optimal and implementable, and rationality rules as traditionally conceived have both of those features.

The surprise exam variant is pretty interesting I think. I’ll have to go back and read that literature, but I don’t remember there being much written about the case where the teacher promises *two* exams, and says they’ll both be surprises. Given how many of the solutions are held together with fraying bits of string, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t generalise to that case.

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