Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bennett, Brown, and the Argument from Authority

Hull FC manager Phil Brown was quoted as saying of Bennett's reversed penalty decision, "It's beyond me - whether it was a penalty or it wasn't, he's given it." In other words, even though Bennett's assistant referee and, as it happens, reality, contradicted the decision, because Bennett is the on-field authority the decision should have counted.

Greek philosopher and chief Plato rival Aristotle was paraphrased as saying, "An appeal to authority cannot guarantee the truth of the conclusion."

Aristotle 1, Phil Brown 0.


Fredorrarci said...

But but but...

Aristotle must have said this before the start of his football career (as partially documented by Monty Python) otherwise he would have been aware of the game's warping effect on logic. The argument from authority is perfectly valid if one remembers that the referee's decision truly is final: Geoff Hurst's shot crossed the line, Maradona didn't punch the ball, Chris Morgan is nothing more than a rugged, hard-but-fair centre-half. It's not the rules that count, but each particular interpretation and implementation of them by a referee, a fallible human being.

Because Phil Brown exists in a realm where his very future is dependent on these decisions, it is reasonable for him to comment not on the reality of the situation, but on the reality as perceived by what for practical purposes is deemed the ultimate arbiter.

As Bart Simpson said: ikso fatso.

Richard Whittall said...

Ah yes, but then as ultimate arbiter, does he also not have the power to overrule his own decision? It's been done before and it would be absurd for the penalty to be awarded if on inspection he found out it had been made in error.

While the rules of the game dictate the referee has the ultimate authority in these matters, they also demand the decisions accord as closely as possible to conventional truth.

Phil Brown has no business going after Bennett for changing his mind on second inspection. To go through with the penalty at that point would have been far more controversial.

As Sideshow Bob translated, 'the Bart, the.'

Fredorrarci said...

Fair enough, though I read Brown's comments less as a criticism of the ref than something more rueful -- an expression of football's location in the sliver between empirical truth and perceived reality, and the football manager's ultimate helplessness and relative inability to effect change on the world around him.

Or he's just another manager talking shite about a referee. Yeah, I'll go with that one.

By the way, how do you pronounce your surname? Jimbo pronounced as Whittle on FW the other day, but I've been pronouncing it in my head as Whittawl all this time.

Richard Whittall said...

You are in fact correct, and I upbraided Jimbo for mangling it, although he didn't come close to how the Quebecois pronounced my name -- "White-owl," which apparently was my grandfather's favourite brand of smokes.

Go figure.