While we are talking about the cultural heritage of western civilisation, everyone is these days, so don’t miss the IPA/Mannkal extravaganza in June, here is an important contribution, a history of spin bowling.
So it is with a degree of confidence bordering on brassneck that Amol Rajan begins his publishing career with a history of spin bowling: an aspect of the game so arcane that its main function, which cannot be overemphasised, is to confuse professional cricketers.
How hard would that be? you might say, but that would be unfair, after all I was a demon offspin bowler (the breakthrough bowler in the team). Offspin bowlers are the intellectual giants of cricket, we have to be, lacking the intimidation of the fast bowler and the fierce spin of the leggie.
I once told a leading philosopher that all the big questions in philosophy arise if you think hard about cricket but he did not ask for an explanation which was a shame, being of Austrian descent I think cricket was not one of his interests. Anyway this is how you turn up some fundamental issues in the social sciences if you think about the game from the offspin bowler’s point of view. You wouldn’t expect Warnie to go down this path.
Reverting to the concrete; at any moment in the game the rival captains have the option of playing for a win or a draw (or, less likely, a loss but this could be rational under some circumstances, for example if one captain has been bribed or if the game is unimportant and a quick finish will allow more time in the pub.) Depending on the choice of aim (which can be revised as the game proceeds) certain consequences will follow in the way of instructions to batsmen, field placings and the like.
According to the theory of the objective mind, a change in aim is not just a change of mind (though mental events are involved), it can be a rational response to arguments and appraisal or re-appraisal of the situation. These arguments and apraisals use theories to predict the likely outcomes of various options. The use of arguments and theories to evaluate critically alternative plans introduces new dimensions to decision-making and social change generally. Considerations of logic and relevance of arguments and truth and relevance of theories arise, and also the morality and consistency of aims.
To cut a long story short, human consciousness (a function of the brain) enables us to form intentions, to grasp abstract ideas and to use language to describe and argue the merits of competing ideas, whether aims, theories, or policies. These ideas, in their objective form (spoken or written) have some kind of autonomy even though they were produced by people in the first instance. They can also have profound effects upon the world though to do this they have to act through the agency of individual people who assimilate them (often in funny ways).
The autonomy, or partial autonomy of these ideas in their spoken or written form eliminates the need for a full historical or psychological explanation of ideas. This enables us to get a grip on some aspects of social change (and social order) that create endless problems for social theorists who usually end up in a historical or psychological regress through trying to account for ideas using subjective theories of knowledge.