A Philosophy of Sport
Sport is most commonly defined as a physical activity that entails a certain level of competition, for instance tennis or netball. Some forms of outdoor sports and some games played by teams are also considered sports. An athlete in a particular sport is known as a player. Many individuals play sports even with their respective teams.
Sport is an interesting case study because it exhibits the tension between two opposing philosophies. At one extreme are the people who believe that sport can be reduced to a purely quantitative activity based upon skill and competition. These people tend towards reductionism. According to them, the only thing that matters is winning and the best way to do that is to have the most number of points. They deny the idea of a free-flowing system of competing and judge a match or a sporting event based purely on merit.
The other camp, which is represented by the defenders of sports, believes that the spirit of sports is much more sophisticated than the quantitative approach. Rather than looking for a win or a prize, they believe that true sportsmanship lies in the embrace of human freedom and the acknowledgment of individual dignity. They go against the grain of perfectionism represented by the traditional sport, which requires absolute control over all aspects of the activity, including its outcome. These defenders of sports also value tradition, respect, and the distinction between sports and entertainment.
Sport as a vehicle for philosophical thinking has been around since the ancient world. philosophers like Plato and Aristotle held a variety of views on the physical nature of the sport. Some of these philosophers subscribed to a form of Platonism, which denied that sport could have any objective meaning apart from the enjoyment of the participants. Sport was seen as something that happened outside of the conscious control of its participants.
Modern philosophers, on the other hand, have renewed the idea of sport as a vehicle for philosophical thinking. For these philosophers, sport is inherently progressive because it continuously evolves with time. It is an evolving body of knowledge that builds upon the experience and knowledge of previous generations. This kind of sportive thinking favors a form of critical realism, which looks to the past to predict the future. In this way, sport can be seen as the link between the philosophy of time and space as well as the philosophies of mind and body.
Sport has the power to stimulate philosophical thinking. Sport can give us a glimpse of our internal mechanisms and how the mind and body connect. It can also inspire and motivate us to pursue worthwhile causes. Sport can teach us to be gracious winners and gracious losers. Sport can encourage us to pursue excellence in everything we do.