Perception, Aspects and Explanation: Some Remarks on Moderate Partisanship

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Modifying a contrast introduced by Dixon, Stephen Mumford distinguishes between partisan and purist ways of watching sport. Recognising that the extreme partisan and extreme purist positions do not explain the nature of sports spectatorship, Mumford follows Dixon in adopting the idea of moderate partisanship (any spectator who is neither all-partisan nor all-purist). He outlines three theories of spectatorship designed to address the issue of the relationship between the partisan and the purist ways of viewing sport. The true perception theory regards the moderate fan as able to see the event as it really is, rather than concentrating on an aspect (as the extreme purist and extreme partisan do). The mixture theory is the view that the moderate partisan has both partisan and purist perceptions of sport in some mixed way. The oscillation theory, which Mumford favours, holds that the moderate sports fan switches or oscillates between competitive (partisan) and aesthetic (purist) ways of watching sport. This paper does not offer an alternative theory to Mumfords account. Instead, it explores the possibility of dissolving the problem. Mumford is troubled by the distinction, and feels that he requires a theory to solve the problem he thinks it raises (and thereby explain the relationship between partisan and purist ways of viewing sport). The idea that purist and partisan ways of viewing sport are the only two options is explored, and a number of other possibilities are outlined. The paper considers the picture that appears to have motivated the idea that there is a problem here in need of a solution. One alternative picture is offered by means of a discussion of the phenomenon of aspect-perception, which, it is argued, is not a helpful model for thinking about football (soccer) spectatorship. This alternative picture is not a rival theory, but one possible example designed to show that there are other ways of thinking about football spectatorship that dissolve the problem with which Mumford is concerned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-204
Number of pages23
JournalSport, Ethics and Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jun 2015


  • perception
  • aspects
  • moderate partisanship
  • spectatorship
  • aesthetic appreciation


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