Philosophy of sport

Philosophy of sport is an area of philosophy that seeks to conceptually analyze issues of sport as human activity. These issues cover many areas, but fall primarily into five philosophical categories: metaphysics, ethics and moral philosophy, philosophy of law, political philosophy, and aesthetics. The philosophical perspective on sport originated in Ancient Greece, having experienced a revival in the latter part of the 20th century[1] with the work of Paul Weiss and Howard Slusher.[2][3]

A philosophical perspective on sports incorporates its metaphysical relationships with art and play, ethical issues of virtue and fairness and more broadly sociopolitical.[1]

Sport and philosophy in ancient Greece

Ancient Greece is considered the birthplace of both ancient philosophy and Olympic sport. Hellenistic philosophies hung great significance on athletic performance. A leader's athletic prowess, according to the view of the times, reflected their ability to lead.[4] (Games of the Phaeacians in Homer's Odyssey) Sport was seen as an epistemic inquiry, a methodological process by which we learn the objective truth of a person's athletic potential by actualizing it in athletic competition. Athletics as a measure of individual worth was seen as a cure to social inequality. Sport was even seen as moral education, with Plato advocating the participation of women in sport for their moral enrichment. Aristotle emphasized physical activity as an ethical responsibility. Mentions of sport were also found in the work of Plato.[1]

Contemporary philosophy of sport

The resurgence of interest in philosophy of sport was marked by Yale philosopher Paul Weiss' book publication Sport: A Philosophical Inquiry (1969), considered the first book-length text in philosophy of sport. In it, Weiss explains the dearth of work in philosophy of sport as a reflection of academic elitism. Sport was always considered vulgar or common, according to Weiss.[5]

Long before this, however, philosophical considerations of sport and physical and activity were discussed as a subset of educational reform in the late 19th century as the link between physical education and health and well-being gained appreciation among scholars. To many of the time, the health and educational benefits of physical activity were a component of public life. Inadvertently, many non-philosopher proponents of physical education took on philosophical positions on teleology, mind-body dualism and metaphysics as part of their model of human agency and personhood. In a broader context, political philosophy entered the picture as thinkers of the time, in response to pressing social and political issues of the day associated civic duty, responsible citizenship and other political features to sport.[3] While much of the focus has been on the work done in the West, philosophers of sport acknowledge the importance of work done in the East, particularly Japan.[6]

Important questions in philosophy of sport are concerned with the social virtues of sport, the aesthetics of sporting performances and display, the epistemology of individual and team strategy and techniques, sporting ethics, the logic of rules in sport, metaphysics of sport as a component of human nature or instinct, etc.[6] However, some writers have composed a philosophy of sport in terms of the body, art and its intersections with generation X sports, such as bouldering, surfing, skateboarding.[7]

Other areas of intersection with contemporary areas of philosophy include philosophy of education, philosophy of law, philosophy of mind, philosophy of rules, philosophy of science, social philosophy and political philosophy.

Issues in philosophy of sport


Ethical issues in philosophy of sport predominantly center on athlete behavior in relation to rules of the game, other athletes, spectators, external factors such as socioeconomic issues among supporters and communities, and issues of doping.

Issues of doping in sport focus on the ethics of medical intervention on athletic performance: what is acceptable versus what is not, and how boundaries can be drawn. Particular attention is given to the question of what factors ought to be taken into consideration when banning certain medical interventions.

These and other issues are usually compared and contrasted through the lenses of three significant moral theories: consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Reid, Heather (September 2012). Introduction to the Philosophy of Sport (Elements of philosophy). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0742570622.
  2. ^ Quinton, Anthony (August 21, 1969) Locker Room Metaphysics.
  3. ^ a b Kretchmar, R. Scott (November 1996). "Chapter Six: Philosophy of Sport". In Massengale, John D.; Swanson, Richard A. (eds.). The History of Exercise and Sport Science. Human Kinetics Publishers. p. 181. ISBN 0873225244.
  4. ^ Hardman, Alun; Jones, Carwyn, eds. (2010). Philosophy of Sport. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 1-4438-2516-6.
  5. ^ Shouler, Kenneth (2003) If Life is Finite, Why am I Watching this Damn Game? Philosophy Now
  6. ^ a b Resource Guide to the Philosophy of Sport and Ethics of Sport. Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Network, October 2008
  7. ^ Sanzaro, Francis. The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering. ISBN 0954877993.
  8. ^ McNamee, Mike. Ethics and Sport.

Further reading

External links

1998 Winter Olympics opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics took place at Nagano Olympic Stadium, Nagano, Japan, on 7 February 1998.

Bernard Andrieu

Bernard Andrieu (born 24 December 1959 in Agen) is a French philosopher and historian of the body.

Andrieu studied in Bordeaux from 1978 to 1984. He is a professor at the University of Nancy.

He has written on the philosophy of neuroscience and the mind-body problem, as well as the history of bodily practices such as tanning, touch, the open air, and immersion. He is the editor of a 450-article Dictionary of the Body.


In Hinduism, Brahman connotes the highest Universal Principle, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy, it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. Brahman as a metaphysical concept is the single binding unity behind diversity in all that exists in the universe.Brahman is a Vedic Sanskrit word, and it is conceptualized in Hinduism, states Paul Deussen, as the "creative principle which lies realized in the whole world". Brahman is a key concept found in the Vedas, and it is extensively discussed in the early Upanishads. The Vedas conceptualize Brahman as the Cosmic Principle. In the Upanishads, it has been variously described as Sat-cit-ānanda (truth-consciousness-bliss) and as the unchanging, permanent, highest reality.Brahman is discussed in Hindu texts with the concept of Atman (Self), personal, impersonal or Para Brahman, or in various combinations of these qualities depending on the philosophical school. In dualistic schools of Hinduism such as the theistic Dvaita Vedanta, Brahman is different from Atman (soul) in each being. In non-dual schools such as the Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is identical to the Atman, is everywhere and inside each living being, and there is connected spiritual oneness in all existence.

Gary Cox (philosopher)

Gary Cox (born 1964, England) is a British philosopher and biographer and the author of several books on Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialism, general philosophy and philosophy of sport.A Philosophy graduate of the University of Southampton, UK, he was awarded his PhD in 1996 from the University of Birmingham, UK, for his thesis on Jean-Paul Sartre's theory of consciousness, freedom and bad faith and is an honorary research fellow of that same university. His most notable works to date are The Sartre Dictionary (2008), How to Be an Existentialist, or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses (2009) and The God Confusion: Why Nobody Knows the Answer to the Ultimate Question (2013).

Cox’s early publications reflect his research into both the philosophical, fictional and biographical writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, with his book, The Sartre Dictionary, providing a comprehensive overview of Sartre’s major works, ideas, influences and contemporaries. From 2009 onwards, with the publication of his best selling book to date, How to Be an Existentialist, Gary Cox took the ideas of existentialism to a wider, non-specialist audience, emphasising the self-help and personal empowerment aspects of the theory. An attack on contemporary 'excuse culture', the work urges the reader to face the hard existential truths of the human condition and to take full responsibility for his or her inalienable freedom. How to Be an Existentialist has been cited in such diverse areas as existential counselling and management and leadership training.In 2010, Cox continued his efforts to popularise philosophy in the UK with the publication of How to Be a Philosopher, or How to Be Almost Certain that Almost Nothing is Certain, a beginners' guide to philosophy written in the same accessible, popular style as How to Be an Existentialist. 2011 saw the publication of his Existentialist’s Guide to Death, the Universe and Nothingness, a guide to key existentialist themes that, as its title suggests, is something of a homage to Douglas Adams. In 2013 Cox published The God Confusion, a controversial book exploring questions concerning the idea and existence of God that is critical of both theism and atheism and advocates agnosticism as the only tenable philosophical position.Bloomsbury Publishing released Deep Thought: 42 Fantastic Quotes that Define Philosophy in October 2015, and Cox's biography of Jean-Paul Sartre - Existentialism and Excess: The Life and Times of Jean-Paul Sartre - in September 2016.

Cox's new book, Cricket Ball: The Heart of the Game (Bloomsbury, October 2018) is an excursion into object-oriented ontology and the philosophy, politics, aesthetics and literature of sport. A celebration of the game of cricket, the book explores all aspects of the cricket ball phenomenon, from its ontology, iconic status, history, manufacture and future, to its complex, multifaceted, often controversial role during play.

Hans Lenk

Hans Lenk (born 23 March 1935) is a German rower who competed for the United Team of Germany in the 1960 Summer Olympics, and an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy. He was born in Berlin.

In 1960, he was a crew member of the West German boat which won the gold medal in the eights event.

Henning Eichberg

Henning Eichberg (1 December 1942 in Schweidnitz, Silesia – 22 April 2017 in Odense, Danemark) was a German sociologist and historian, teaching at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. He became notable by his contributions to the philosophy of body culture and by his political radical writings on folk and nation.

Henning Eichberg is the father of the composer Søren Nils Eichberg.

Jan Boxill

Jeanette Marie Boxill (née Bozanic) is an American academic who was Senior Lecturer in Philosophy (ethics) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was also Chair of the Faculty and Director of Parr Center for Ethics. Her writing and teaching relate broadly with ethical issues in social conduct, social and political philosophy, feminist theory, and ethics in sports. She is editor of Sports Ethics: An Anthology and Issues in Race and Gender. She is past president of the International Association for Philosophy in Sport, serves on the board of the NCAA Scholarly Colloquium Committee, and chairs both the 2011 NCAA Scholarly Colloquium and the Education Outreach Program for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). For 25 years, Boxill was the public address announcer for UNC women's basketball and field hockey; she now serves as the radio color analyst for UNC women's basketball. She is a member of numerous professional associations (philosophy, sports, and the American Association of University Women) and has won a number of awards (from inside her institution and beyond) for teaching and professional contributions. She resigned from UNC in 2015 in the wake of the UNC Chapel Hill academics-athletics scandal.

List of philosophies

Philosophical schools of thought and philosophical movements.

Native American mascot controversy

The use of terms and images referring to Native Americans/First Nations as the name or mascot for a sports team is a topic of public controversy in the United States and Canada. Since the 1960s, as part of the indigenous civil rights movements, there have been a number of protests and other actions by Native Americans and their supporters. The protests target the prominent use of such names and images by professional franchises such as the Cleveland Indians (in particular their "Chief Wahoo" logo, now officially retired); and the Washington Redskins (the term "redskins" being defined in most American English dictionaries as "derogatory slang"). Changes, such as the retirement of Native American names and mascots in a wide array of schools, has been a steady trend since the 1970s.

The issue is often discussed in the media only in terms of the offensiveness of certain terms, images, and performances to individuals of Native American heritage, which tends to reduce the problem to one of feelings and personal opinions. This prevents a fuller understanding of the history and context of the use of Native American names and images, and the reasons why sports teams should eliminate the utilization of such terms. Social science research says that sports mascots and images, rather than being mere entertainment, are important symbols with deeper psychological and social effects. The accumulation of research on the harm done has led to over 115 professional organizations representing civil rights, educational, athletic, and scientific experts adopting resolutions or policies that state that the use of Native American names and/or symbols by non-native sports teams is a form of ethnic stereotyping that promotes misunderstanding and prejudice which contributes to other problems faced by Native Americans.Defenders of the current usage often state their intention to honor Native Americans by referring to positive traits, such as fighting spirit and being strong, brave, stoic, dedicated, and proud; while opponents see these traits as being based upon stereotypes of Native Americans as savages. In general, the social sciences recognize that all stereotypes, whether positive or negative, are harmful because they promote false or misleading associations between a group and an attribute, fostering a disrespectful relationship. The injustice of such stereotypes is recognized with regard to other racial or ethnic groups, thus mascots are morally questionable regardless of offense being taken by individuals. Defenders of the status quo also state that the issue is not important, being only about sports, and that the opposition is nothing more than "political correctness", which change advocates argue ignores the extensive evidence of harmful effects of stereotypes and bias. Although there has been a steady decline in the number of teams doing so, Native American images and nicknames nevertheless remain fairly common in American and Canadian sports, and may be found in use at all levels, from youth teams to professional sports franchises.


Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.

Professional Ethics (journal)

Professional Ethics: A Multidisciplinary Journal was a peer-reviewed academic journal that examined ethical issues in the context of the practice of a profession. Established in 1992, the journal published original research on ethics issues in accounting, business, engineering, sports, the military, and other fields. Notable contributors include Carol G. Gould, R. M. Hare, and Daryl Koehn. The journal published special issues in cooperation with professional organizations in several countries, including the Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics, Canadian Society for the Study of Practical Ethics, International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, International Colloquium on Military Obedience, Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Professional Ethics was published at the Center for Applied Ethics at the University of Florida until 2003. Members of the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum have online access to all issues of this journal as a benefit of membership.

Samantha Brennan

Samantha Brennan is a British-born philosopher and scholar of women's studies who is currently Dean of the College of Arts and faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph. She was previously a Professor in the Department of Women's Studies and Feminist Research at Western University, Canada. She remains a member of Western's Rotman Institute of Philosophy and the graduate faculty of the Departments of Political Science and of Philosophy. Brennan was Department Chair of Philosophy at Western from 2002-2007, and 2008-2011. She is Past President of the Canadian Philosophical Association (2017-18).


Sport includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. Hundreds of sports exist, from those between single contestants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals. In certain sports such as racing, many contestants may compete, simultaneously or consecutively, with one winner; in others, the contest (a match) is between two sides, each attempting to exceed the other. Some sports allow a "tie" or "draw", in which there is no single winner; others provide tie-breaking methods to ensure one winner and one loser. A number of contests may be arranged in a tournament producing a champion. Many sports leagues make an annual champion by arranging games in a regular sports season, followed in some cases by playoffs.

Sport is generally recognised as system of activities which are based in physical athleticism or physical dexterity, with the largest major competitions such as the Olympic Games admitting only sports meeting this definition, and other organisations such as the Council of Europe using definitions precluding activities without a physical element from classification as sports. However, a number of competitive, but non-physical, activities claim recognition as mind sports. The International Olympic Committee (through ARISF) recognises both chess and bridge as bona fide sports, and SportAccord, the international sports federation association, recognises five non-physical sports: bridge, chess, draughts (checkers), Go and xiangqi, and limits the number of mind games which can be admitted as sports.Sport is usually governed by a set of rules or customs, which serve to ensure fair competition, and allow consistent adjudication of the winner. Winning can be determined by physical events such as scoring goals or crossing a line first. It can also be determined by judges who are scoring elements of the sporting performance, including objective or subjective measures such as technical performance or artistic impression.

Records of performance are often kept, and for popular sports, this information may be widely announced or reported in sport news. Sport is also a major source of entertainment for non-participants, with spectator sport drawing large crowds to sport venues, and reaching wider audiences through broadcasting. Sport betting is in some cases severely regulated, and in some cases is central to the sport.

According to A.T. Kearney, a consultancy, the global sporting industry is worth up to $620 billion as of 2013. The world's most accessible and practised sport is running, while association football is its most popular spectator sport.


Sportsmanship is an aspiration or ethos that a sport or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one's competitors. A "sore loser" refers to one who does not take defeat well, whereas a "good sport" means being a "good winner" as well as being a "good loser" (someone who shows courtesy towards another in a sports game).

Stephen Mumford

Stephen Dean Mumford (born 31 July 1965) is a British philosopher, who is currently Professor of Metaphysics in the Department of Philosophy at Durham University. Mumford is best known for his work in metaphysics on dispositions and laws, but has also made contributions in the philosophy of sport.

Steven Connor

Steven Kevin Connor, FBA (born 11 February 1955) is a British literary scholar. Since 2012, he has been the Grace 2 Professor of English in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. He was formerly the academic director of the London Consortium and professor of modern literature and theory at Birkbeck, University of London.


A triathlon is a multisport race with three continuous and sequential endurance races. The word is of Greek origin, from τρεῖς or treis (three) and ἆθλος or athlos (competition).While variations of the sport exist, the most common form includes swimming, cycling, and running over various distances. Triathletes compete for fastest overall course completion, including timed transitions between the three races.A transition area is set up where the athletes change gear for different segments of the race. This is where the switches from swimming to cycling and cycling to running occur. These areas are used to store bicycles, performance apparel, and any other accessories needed for the next stage of the race. The transition from swim to bike is referred to as T1 and that between the bike and run is referred to as T2. The athlete's overall time for the race includes time spent in T1 and T2. Transition areas vary in size depending on the number of participants expected. In addition, these areas provide a social headquarters before the race.The nature of the sport focuses on persistent and often periodized training in each of the three disciplines, as well as combination workouts and general strength conditioning.

Tug of war

Tug of war (also known as tug o' war, tug war, rope war, rope pulling, or tugging war) is a sport that pits two teams against each other in a test of strength: teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team's pull.

Vincent Brown (wide receiver)

Vincent Brown Jr. (born January 25, 1989) is a former American football wide receiver. He played college football at San Diego State University, and was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Supporter culture
General topics
Associated activities
Cultures by sport
Sports memorabilia
Types of Supporter

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.