Philosophy for the Olympics

The latest issue of The Philosophers’ Magazine is now published, and, just in time for the Olympics, it features a series of essays by philosophers of sport.  We’ll post a few for free online here for a time.  One of the articles, by Stephen Mumford, addresses the profundity of sport.  Is the experience of sport, the training, the effort — is it somehow profound or a complete waste of time?  Mumford accepts that sport is indeed trivial in a certain sense — whether or not someone can reach an arbitrary goal a fraction of a second faster than someone else can’t really matter all that much.  But it’s sports triviality that enables us to enjoy it, to appreciate it.  If sport mattered a lot, if the loser lost his house, we couldn’t cheer, couldn’t enjoy sport in the way that we do.  Because it doesn’t matter in one sense, it can matter a lot in another.  He has interesting things to say about the exercise and expression of freedom in sport too.  It’s convinced me that sport is a serious subject for philosophers, and that maybe that old line, ‘one can philosophize about anything’, really is true.


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