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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Padanilam: Philosophizing about the best baseball team

The other day, I was working on a presentation for my thesis — which is an ethical evaluation of the use of steroids during Major League Baseball’s “Steroid Era” through the lens of a few different frameworks — and I was asked if I was creating a baseball team made up of philosophers.

I wasn’t, but since I had this column due two days later, I decided that it would be a sufficient topic for me to write about. So, without further ado, here’s my lineup card. Hopefully my selections are more exciting than that intro:

1.) John Stuart Mill — First Base

Mill’s ideas were extremely influential, so he gets a spot in this lineup. Why leadoff? Because it does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Batting at the top gives him one job: get on base. Batting him lower adds variables, and variables only make him less useful (although he likes to think he can weigh them all effectively). And he gets stuck at first base because I have to put him somewhere and there are concerns about his defense compared to the rest of the field.

2.) Plato — Second Base

He’d make a great battery mate for the next guy on the list, manning second base. And I’d bet he has deceptive talent — after all, he fooled generation after generation of philosophers into thinking his ideas were Socrates’ and vice versa, to the point that no one really knows the difference. Any team could benefit from that kind of craftiness.

3.) Aristotle — Shortstop

Aristotle is the foundation for a lot of the knowledge we have today, whether it be his actual ideas or the ideas which he spurned through his influence, so he makes perfect sense as the foundation of this lineup and defense. Plus, he’s a true five-tool player, particularly if those five tools are logic, ethics, politics, physics and biology (OK, so maybe that last tool is disputed, but he’s earned it).

4.) Thomas Aquinas — Right Field 

If Aristotle is batting third, it only makes sense to bat Aquinas in the cleanup spot — after all, he basically cleaned up Aristotle to make him consumable as a foundation for Catholic theology. He’s got to play right field though because we need him on the opposite side of all the heretics he wants to burn on the left side.

5.) Sigmund Freud — Catcher

Can you imagine a better backstop out there? He’d have no problem getting in opposing batters’ heads while simultaneously guiding anyone on this pitching staff to success. And his presence in the locker room could be key, helping to keep all these superstars and their super egos in check.

6.) Immanuel Kant — Center Field

Given the two guys in left and right field, there needs to be someone reasonable out there manning center field. And Kant is reasonable if anything else — some would say too much so and it would never bear out in practice, but I guess we’d have our answer before long.

7.) Karl Marx — Left Field

I mean, does it get much more left than Marx? I almost went with John Rawls here to bring my lineup into the modern era, but why would I put modern liberalism in left field when I can have socialism?

8.) Voltaire — Third Base

Playing third base is all about having quick reflexes on defenses — there’s a reason they call it the hot corner — so who better than the sharp-tongued and quick witted French Enlightenment thinker? And being closest to the opponent’s dugout in most parks, Voltaire should be well served to fire back at any individuals — yes, that means you Leibniz — that might not be on his team.

9.) Lucretius — Pitcher

It’s simple really; just when he gets you in a groove with the fastball, he’ll hit you with that all too unpredictable swerve — I mean curve ball.