Philosophical Theories of Sports


What exactly is sports? In simple terms, it is physical activity that is competitive and aimed at improving physical abilities and skills. Sports can be both non-competitive and competitive, and they provide participants and spectators with physical and mental exercise. Many types of sports involve one or more contestants, varying in the number of participants and the level of difficulty. Some sports are played between individuals and may also involve hundreds of participants. Others may involve two teams competing in a single event.

The philosophical theories of sports typically fall into two categories: normative and descriptive. Normative theories seek to provide an account of how sport works and what it means. Both types of sports theories can be externalist or internalist, and they can be broadly categorized by their goals. Externalist theories of sport are influenced by structuralism and Marxism. William J. Morgan has identified three different types of externalist theories. The Commodification theory understands sports as a commodity with both exchange and use values.

While both types of sports can have aesthetic aspects, there is still a difference between art and sport. The former is concerned with an aesthetic value while the latter is purely functional. In terms of aesthetics, an actor playing Hamlet represents the existential struggle of the modern individual. On the other hand, a point guard playing basketball represents nothing more than the sport itself. But some scholars think that sports are art in their own right, and that they are, in fact, a form of culture.