Friday, April 27, 2007

Cricket and constructivism

So the whole world thinks the England cricket team is rubbish. Why is this? The power of the press is never greater than when a team is losing. It can force changes, like the removal of a coach or a captain; it can call up players; it can drop them; it can even change the batting order.

These are examples of recent changes within the England camp, precipitated by an angry media. When the team is winning, however, there isn’t much to criticise, and therefore the influence of the papers is limited. But here’s a thought: the press practice mind control.

Constructivism is an epistemological theory in which knowledge comes from a discourse between agents. A conversation, as it were, between two people help to “construct” concepts. This dialogue sets the meaning of words and the provides the content to knowledge and a way of perceiving the world.

If you and I agree that this object in my hand is a “cat” it automatically becomes, in our shared understanding, a cat. There is no law of science, mathematical argument or logical proof that can dictate otherwise. Similarly, constructivists argue all knowledge stems from such intersubjective discourses. A “table” is a table because we say it is.

Those partaking in these discussions actually define the way listeners perceive the world. They are, in Hilary Putnam’s term, epistemic “experts” that give the broader community a way of understanding their environment.

In the modern world, it is the media that serves this function. They report the facts, but also frame them in a particular way, which tacitly influences our own awareness.

Take the English cricket press. It is universally acknowledged in all papers that England is endowed with a pitifully poor team. Yet, let us examine the facts:

  • We are ranked seventh in the ICC rankings, and managed to come fifth in the World Cup.
  • We are one of only four not to lose to a minnow.
  • We have come the “closest” to beating Australia.
  • We have had some tight games against other major sides.
  • Four batsmen have scored over 300 runs, and one over 500.

All in all, I don’t think this tournament has been too bad for the English, especially considering their thrashing in the Ashes. We also managed to get through to the second round, which is an achievement in itself.

Yet, the all-pervasive discourse of the press is inescapable, and we all seem to think we did terribly. This seems at odds with the facts.

However, as noted above, once the team seems “weak” the relative influence of the press to affect the management of the squad is increased. A conspiracy...?

Just thought I’d share that little thought with you.


Samir Chopra said...


If you are interested in the Philosophy of Cricket, you could do worse than check out the following upcoming book on the philosophy of cricket (I have an essay on ethics in cricket in there):

Samir (from

The Atheist said...

Looks interesting. You should send me a copy and I can do a review for if you like. ;)

I'll keep an eye on your blog, and put a link to it. Because that the sort of supererogatory bloke I am.

Samir Chopra said...

Atheist, thanks for the link and the offer to review :) I'll get the publisher on to it.

I'm going to go link to your blog now - in the spirit of maximal supererogatoriness.


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