Sport and Philosophy

“Sport” as an adjective usually refers to any kind of competitive physical activity, that through organised or casual participation, seeks to achieve or prove some objective, such as improving health or physical fitness, forming social bonds or getting results (especially at the competitive level). Other things that may be regarded as sports activities are motor sport such as motor racing, rugby, hockey and ice skating. A more inclusive list would also include team sport such as badminton and swimming. Other money-making activities, such as horse racing and golf are also acceptable as long as they do not involve physical contact and competition.


Sport has been the object of intense interest from a variety of philosophers whose perspectives have evolved over time. Some philosophers who have had significant influence on the development of sport include Aristotle, Aquinas, Frege, Jean Baptiste Saint-Hilaire, positivism, Oxford and much later philosophers associated with the later modernist period such as Immanuel Kant, Leo Tolstoy, Bertrand Russell, Harry Frankfurt and others. According to these philosophers sport is primarily a form of interaction with the world and its objects, with an attitude of the utmost participation in the action, with an external aim of some kind toward the achievement of some goal. Others who have placed less emphasis on sport and have maintained a strong commitment to aesthetics have considered sporting to be an aesthetic activity motivated by the desire for beauty.

Sport, for them, is an aesthetic activity with a highly competitive aspect and they regard sport competitions as the ideal of excellence. However, a number of philosophers argue against the above notions. For example, the eminent philosophers Aristotle and Socrates think that sport is merely physical activity and does not possess any aesthetic quality. In addition to this, they consider that skill in any sport is necessarily related to the physical activities performed in real life, such as running, jumping, throwing and so on. Therefore, they argue that skill in any game and especially sports can only be attained through practice and therefore the rules of any game need to be based on common sense and the ability of the participants to act according to the rules rather than on their personal capacities.