Metabletics of Spinal Sport: When Poion Meets Poson

  • Ron Welters
Part of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 37)


The previous chapter, which dealt with sport and the environment, implicitly ended with a quasi-Sisyphean take on endurance sport. He or she who takes up the challenge will eventually be able to control the mountains of life. According to the subsequent ascetic imperative we must immerse ourselves in diligent practice, create our personal upwardly oriented challenge and cycle for life. It is living in the strenuous and auto-competitive, but meanwhile also ecologically respectful mood that makes life worthwhile.

However, this emphasis on dedicated and necessary, but highly repetitive training-practices over the idea of sport as a playful voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles (Suits, The grasshopper: games, life and utopia. Broadview Press, Ontario, 1978/2005), bears the risk of reducing sport to mechanic, soulless, un-reflective and un-critical activity. In this pejorative sense, then, sportive physicality becomes nothing but a matter of what Plato referred to as poson: calculative, quantitative measurability. Whilst the poionistic, qualitatively oriented quest for finding one’s own subjective measure, ideally resulting in a harmonious and holistic sense of well-being is neglected.

To clarify and overcome the tension between quantity and quality, between dull calculable reps and rich, fully flourishing and meaningful life, in this chapter I will bring a specific brand of phenomenology to the fore: Jan-Hendrik van den Berg’s metabletica. This doctrine of change, (Metaballein means ‘to change’ in ancient Greek) or ‘historical phenomenology’ is a rather daring attempt to unveil causality between at a glance unrelated events in a specific period. I will explain and apply Van den Berg’s disputed, but evocative method by paying a metabletical visit to two remarkable years, namely 1974 and 2010, which I will respectively assess as years of poion (quality) and poson (quantity). In terms of sport, 1974 appears to be a year of quality, of fully being-in-the-world. On the other hand, metabletically speaking, 2010 turns out to be a year of fixation on quantity, a one-dimensional ‘calculative’ understanding of the perfection of the self. At the end of the concerning paragraph I will critically assess this supposed watershed between the good and the bad take on sport.

Finally I will attempt to overcome Van den Berg’s all in all unfruitful dichotomy of the ‘reflexive spineless mass’ versus the ‘reflective critical individual’ by arguing that his musings on automated, reflexive movement behaviour on closer inspection even have special benefits to offer when it comes to an ecosophical-ascetological understanding of sport. Only when every single step does not demand full attention anymore, one can look around and enjoy the magnificent scenery of life. Only after diligently putting in ascetic effort, one can attain the Elysian fields of ecosophical joy. Experiencing overwhelming poion always presupposes a robust amount of poson.


Metabletics Quality Quantity Reflective spinalism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ron Welters
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Science in Society, Faculty of ScienceRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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