Hope for a philosophy of sport?

The above is partly an attempt to diffuse the criticism that nothing here need change how one views sports events. Actually, though, I doubt that my view will leave one’s conception of sports events unchanged: seeing the rules of sport my way at least transforms how you explain appeals to rules, perhaps which rules you appeal to. What is being advocated here might seem to amount to a contribution to the philosophy of sport.

Certainly, philosophy provides the disciplinary tools and sport provides the subject matter. Is this going back on my commitment (McFee 1998a: 16–17) that – once moral questions are set aside6 – discussion of sport can add nothing (except examples) to a quite general discussion from philosophy? Not really, for three reasons. First, the pedigree in (general) philosophy is quite apparent in the discussion of most topics: as noted above, many chapters contain explicit discussions of these general issues.

So this connection to the body of mainstream philosophy is essential. Second, the appearance of a change of heart reflects a change in the scale of my interest in the moral dimensions of sport. Arguments in Parts II and III suggest that perhaps the influence of the moral is more pervasive than previously thought.

I always recognized (McFee 1998a: 5) that sport was not just one such human practice among many, since ethical questions arise naturally from the inherent characteristics of typical sports: for example, sports are typically culturally-valued7 and viewed as united (as one thing, Sport); they typically have explicit rules (whose contravention is therefore possible); the possibility of harm to participants (especially if rules are not followed) does not prevent participation; and the rhetoric of sport is replete with metaphors employed in general ethical discussion – in particular, the idea of fair play or of a level playing field.

Last words:

In this way, ethical issues are ineliminably linked with the existence and practice of sport: a concern with such issues would be both a centrally philosophical concern and a concern with sport.

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