The Nature of Sports

In a study of the nature of sports, R. Scott Kretchmar and Drew Hyland draw on ideas from social and political philosophy to understand the nature of sport. These authors explore the cultural processes and practices involved in sports, while emphasizing the agency of humans. Other scholars have explored the role of sport in society, including Georg W. F. Hegel and Martin Heidegger. For example, the mutualist view of sport focuses on the value of competition and cooperation in sports.

According to Searle, human biological characteristics are ‘brute facts’ when it comes to crafting rules and games. In addition, gamewrights strive to design a game to fit the capabilities of human beings, but most games fail to present ‘just the right’ challenge. Hence, Suits argues that an adequate normative theory of sport can be derived from this account. Suits’s argument is compelling: sports are socially good and, therefore, should be regarded as such.

A contractarian view of sports maintains that games have normative value because players have signed a social contract in order to partake. Such a contract gives normative value to conventions and rules. Despite the fact that a contract is an implicit agreement, it is still necessary to recognize a social contract in order to understand the purpose of sports. For instance, a soccer player who requires medical care must put the ball out of play. In a contractarian view, the player and the spectator agree to abide by the rules.