Philosophical Reflections on Sport


As far back as human history goes, physical activities have been a part of leisure time. Primitive people opted for hunting and warlike activities, but later on, the ancient Greeks came to admire the human body and took part in athletic competitions. Romans enjoyed gladiatorial games and military games, and religious festivals included knight tournaments. Today, sport is an incredibly popular form of leisure time activity. But before it becomes an Olympic sport, it must first be defined.

Philosophical theories about sport generally fall into two categories: descriptive and normative. Descriptive theories seek to provide an accurate description of the central concepts of sport. Normative theories strive to describe how sport should be played. These can be further classified as externalist or internalist. Externalist theories are influenced by structuralism and Marxism. William J. Morgan distinguishes three main categories of externalist theories. Externalist theories focus on the concept of sport as a commodity with both exchange and use-value.

A social sport involves a group of individuals who gather to play a sport, with minimal organisational supervision. While there are many similarities between social and competitive sports, the differences between these two types are largely based on the type of organisational structure that oversees the activity. Furthermore, a socially-oriented sport often involves a competitive element with a referee. The overall structure and delivery of the activity are also regulated by an organisational structure.

Philosophical reflections on sport date back to Ancient Greece. Aristotle and Plato both saw sports as integral to education. Ancient Greeks believed sport was an act of worship and had dedicated the ancient games to Zeus. The games united the Greeks and promoted a sense of community and unity. In addition, the games united Greeks and other cultures, as Greeks travelled from one region to another to attend them. From these ancient games, motorized ones emerged as an important part of human life.

The conventionalists believe that an adequate account of a sport must appeal to collectively agreed-upon norms. The pioneer of conventionalism, Fred D’Agostino, argues that these unofficial norms constitute the ‘ethos’ of a sport. Conventions dictate how rules are to be applied in specific contexts. Conventionalism, in contrast, believes that sports have formal rules and implicit conventions. For example, a player must put the ball out of play when medical attention is needed.

Some researchers believe that the idea of sex segregation in sports is controversial. The idea of gender-neutrality in sport involves discrimination against women. However, this has been challenged by some researchers. The British model of sports organizations is a good example of how sport should be organized. Even though there are many controversial ideas about the proper categorization of non-gendered athletes, sex segregation should be completely avoided.