Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark

Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark

by Alva Noï


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Baseball is a strange sport: it consists of long periods in which little seems to be happening, punctuated by high-energy outbursts of rapid fire activity. Because of this, despite ever greater profits, Major League Baseball is bent on finding ways to shorten games, and to tailor baseball to today's shorter attention spans. But for the true fan, baseball is always compelling to watch -and intellectually fascinating. It's superficially slow-pace is an opportunity to participate in the distinctive thinking practice that defines the game. If baseball is boring, it's boring the way philosophy is boring: not because there isn't a lot going on, but because the challenge baseball poses is making sense of it all.

In this deeply entertaining book, philosopher and baseball fan Alva No explores the many unexpected ways in which baseball is truly a philosophical kind of game. For example, he ponders how observers of baseball are less interested in what happens, than in who is responsible for what happens; every action receives praise or blame. To put it another way, in baseball - as in the law - we decide what happened based on who is responsible for what happened. Noe also explains the curious activity of keeping score: a score card is not merely a record of the game, like a video recording; it is an account of the game. Baseball requires that true fans try to tell the story of the game, in real time, as it unfolds, and thus actively participate in its creation.

Some argue that baseball is fundamentally a game about numbers. Noe's wide-ranging, thoughtful observations show that, to the contrary, baseball is not only a window on language, culture, and the nature of human action, but is intertwined with deep and fundamental human truths. The book ranges from the nature of umpiring and the role of instant replay, to the nature of the strike zone, from the rampant use of surgery to controversy surrounding performance enhancing drugs. Throughout, Noe's observations are surprising and provocative.

Infinite Baseball is a book for the true baseball fan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190928186
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2019
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 646,849
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Alva No is a writer and philosopher living in Berkeley and New York. He works on the nature of mind and human experience. He is the author of Out of Our Heads (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009) and Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2015), among other books. He is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and the 2018 recipient of the Judd/Hume Prize in Advanced Visual Studies. He was a weekly contributor to National Public Radio's science blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The infinite game

The Essays
In Praise of Being Bored
1. Do we need to speed up baseball?
2. In praise of being bored
3. Three cheers for instant replay
4. The problem with baseball on TV
5. Joint attention

Keeping Score
6. The forensic sport
7. No hitters, perfect games, and the meaning of life
8. Keeping score
9. The numbers game

The Communication Game
10. Baseball and the nature of language
11. Linguistic universals
12. The communication game
13. A moment misunderstood
14. Nobody's perfect

Making Peace with our Cyborg Nature
15."The positive role of medicine in our game's growth"
16. Making peace with our cyborg nature
17. Plagiarized performance
18. What can a person do?
19. In defense of Barry Bonds
20. Legalize it!
21. How much baseball is too much?
22. The athlete and the gladiator

Baseball Memories
23. Heartbreak and social media
24. The Matt Harvey affair
25. Explaining the magic of the ball park
26. For the love of the game: play ball!
27. How to be a fan
28. Mind over matter
29. The 'boys' of summer
30. Baseball's great equalizer
31. Beep baseball
32. Baseball memories


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