Over at his new Cricinfo blog, The Pitch, Samir Chopra cites Aristotle to make his case that M.S. Dhoni is a sucker for withdrawing the infamous appeal:
For Aristotle, generosity, like all the moral virtues, is a mean between two vices, one of deficiency and one of excess. The modern parlance for the vice of excessive generosity is being a sucker. A sucker is not being truly generous, because he gives where there is neither need nor desert.
I don’t know much about Aristotle; I never cared much for the Ancients. But it turns out the Indian dressing room didn’t use the golden mean rule, but rather the Golden Rule, spelled out by various philosophers through the ages. Let’s cite Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments as an example:
As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. Though our brother is on the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. Neither can that faculty help us to this any other way, than by representing to us what would be our own, if we were in his case. It is the impressions of our own senses only, not those of his, which our imaginations copy. By the imagination, we place ourselves in his situation.
Smith famously goes on to say humans try to behave as if an imaginary “impartial spectator” would approve. Now, even though I don’t know as much about Aristotle as I should, I still like the sound of Smith’s model better. The Golden Mean sounds almost crude in its “split-down-the-middle” approach. On the other hand, Smith asks people to put themselves in their friend/foe’s shoes and try to relate. And that’s exactly what the Indians did, according to Rahul Dravid:
“If it was Laxman there or Sachin [Tendulkar] there, I don’t think our guys would have felt nice about it. And that was one of the things discussed when we first came in, what if it was one of our guys? Would we have liked it? And the general feeling was no.”
One final point about Chopra’s post. Near the end, Chopra asks if England will now reciprocate and behave in the true spirit of the game by, say, ending all the sledging and letting English bowlers have a go at Tendulkar in the nets. There is a prominent strain in philosophy that argues that morality should not be transactional; i.e., people should not do good with the expectation of getting something in return. (I think Kant was big on this line of thought, but I could be wrong.) I don’t know how realistic this is, but I like the idea that Dhoni could have said, “I want to deal with this issue on its own merits — not whether or not batsmen should walk, or sledging is stopped, or catches are challenged, or that Stuart Broad is an absolute filthy bastard for implying Laxman is a cheat — but only this issue, right here, and right now.”
And now I’m sounding like a pragmatist…