Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 10 (4):392-402 (2016)

The effort involved in playing sports calls for a hermeneutical reflection on the power that we have to move our bodies. Drawing on Paul Ricoeur’s phenomenology of the lived body and his later ontology of the flesh, I explore how athletic displays of agility, strength, and speed within the theater of sporting competitions exemplify the way that the effort made by athletes attests to their will and desire to succeed. The agonistic spirit of the Greek Olympics is evident in sporting events where competitors or teams strive against one another. At the same time, the players’ willingness to enter the field of play has a counterpart in real-life situations over which we cannot exert complete control. The contingencies of the game in which the players are caught up are a model of the absence of aseity that is a mark of all human existence. By setting the playing field off from the concerns of everyday life, the game places this feature of the human condition on stage. The players’ physical exertion is the sign of a form of consent that sets the will, desire, and effort to exist against the wish for absolute freedom. Sporting competitions are therefore a theater for dramatizing the misery and grandeur of a specifically human freedom.
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DOI 10.1080/17511321.2016.1261928
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