Playing by the Rules

  • Hayden Ramsay


Sport and philosophy are our major legacies from ancient Greece. This is not a coincidence: we take brains and muscle apart at our peril. Even today, the Olympics Movement website includes at the top of its homepage a list of the philosophers who attended the original Olympic Games. This is the basis of sports’ claim to support human excellence and happiness: sport arises from within a philosophical culture and gives its adherents — whether participants or spectators — opportunities for reflection on features of life that are otherwise difficult to reflect upon. Sport is an important addition to contemplation, artistry, appreciation, socialising, worship, and the other reflective leisure activities. But it is also the leisure activity that is most naturally understood as playing: if an activity is sport, it is always ‘people playing’.


Elite Sport Sport Training Sport Psychology Team Game Philosophical Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Heather Reid The Philosophical Athlete (Durham NC: Carolina Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Jan Boxill (ed.) Sports Ethics: an anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), p. 1.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For athletics as reminder of our mortality, training the body and soul, and homage to the gods, see Stephen Miller Ancient Greek Athletics (New York: Yale University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    This idea comes from Anthony Skillen ‘Sport is for Losers’ in J. McNamee and S. Parry (eds) Ethics and Sport (London: E. and F. Spon, 1988), pp. 180–1: ‘because it is one of the few domains in which humans are engaged to stretch to their limits, sport has the potential to teach us to live with such limits, and at the same time, because we have to be “given” a game by the person who beats or is beaten by us, sport has the capacity to teach us to live within the limits of a human fellowship informed by awareness of common frailty. Good sports have much generous wisdom in their bones.’Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Cf. Robert Simon Fair Play: the ethics of sport (Boulder CO: Westview, 2004), p. 27: the principal value of sport lies not in winning, but in overcoming the challenge presented by a worthy opponent. That is, competitions are a ‘mutually acceptable quest for excellence through challenge’, not a ‘zerosum game’.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Heather Reid ‘Sport, Education, and the Meaning of Victory’, Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Boston, Massachusetts, from August 10–15, 1988 Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Stephen Miller Arete: Greek sports from ancient sources (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), p. ix: ‘The word “arête” has imbued ancient athletics with an aura of the quest of man for perfection.’Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Russell Gough Character is Everything (Fortworth TX: Harcourt Brace, 1997), p. 30.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    John Hoberman Mortal Engines (New York: Macmillan, 1992).Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Claudio Tamburrini ‘What’s Wrong with Doping?’ in Torbjorn Tannsjo and Claudio Tamburrini (eds) Values in Sport: elitism, nationalism, gender equality, and the scientific manufacture of winners (London: E. and F. Spon, 2000).Google Scholar
  11. 21.
    For general discussion of TV and sport, see Ellis Cashmore Making Sense of Sport, 2nd edn (London: Routledge, 1990), Ch. 10.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    John Heeley ‘Leisure and Moral Reform’ in Journal of Leisure Studies 5, 1986, pp. 57–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 30.
    William Morgan Leftist Theories of Sport (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hayden Ramsay 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hayden Ramsay

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations