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Sport, Philosophy, and Good Lives

Randolph Feezell

Publication Year: 2013

There’s more to sports than the ethos of competition, entertainment, and commercialism expressed in popular media and discourse. Sport, Philosophy, and Good Lives discusses sport in the context of several traditional philosophical questions, including: What is a good human life and how does sport factor into it? To whom do we look for ethical guidance? What makes human activities or projects meaningful? Randolph Feezell examines these questions along with other relevant topics in the philosophy of sport such as the contribution of play to a meaningful life, the various reasons for pessimistic views of sport, the various claims that celebrated athletes are role models, and the seldom-questioned view that coaches are in a position to offer advice to athletes on how to live or on leadership skills. He also discusses the way that non-Western attitudes found in Buddhism, Taoism, and the Bhagavad Gita might be used to address the vulnerabilities of sports participants.

Feezell draws from current sports issues, popular literature, and contemporary sports figures to shed light on the attraction and value of sports and examine the accompanying ethical issues.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. C-ii

Title Page

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pp. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

This book discusses sport in the context of some traditional philosophical questions. What is a good human life? To whom do we look for ethical guidance? What is the meaning of life? (What is a meaningful life? What makes human activities or projects meaningful?) These are big questions that have been important in the...

Part One. Sport and Good Lives

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1. A Pluralist Conception of Play

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pp. 1-28

The philosophical and scientific literature on play is extensive, and the approaches to the study, description, and explanation of play are diverse. In this chapter I intend to provide an overview of approaches to play. My interest is in describing the most fundamental categories in terms of which play is characterized, explained,...

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2. Sport, Vulnerability, and Unhappiness

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pp. 29-48

The discussion of sport and play raises larger questions about sport and happiness, about the relation between sporting activities and good lives, and about sport and larger philosophies of life, such as hedonism. As I argued in the previous chapter, engaging in playful sporting activities can be a significant source of attitudinal pleasure....

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3. Losing Is Like Death

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pp. 49-72

Before we examine various ways in which we might alter our desires in order to reduce the possibilities of unhappiness in sports, we should first briefly raise a prior concern. Can we change our desires? My ultimate conclusion is not only that the mastery of desire is possible but that is the wise path for the sports participant....

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4. The Pitfalls of Partisanship

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pp. 73-92

Issues associated with the ethics of supporting sports teams deserve more attention. In the last chapter I briefly examined the importance of adaptive strategies for fans whose overheated passion for their teams sometimes leads to questionable behavior and fragile judgments of self-worth. Despite the more extreme examples of ...

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5. Sport, Dirty Language, and Ethics

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pp. 93-128

We turn now to some more narrow concerns associated with sport and good lives. I focus on a relatively neglected area of ethical reflection, yet one that is particularly relevant when thinking about sports. The literature on cheating, sportsmanship, and performance-enhancing drugs is considerable. The literature on the ethics of...

Part Two. Sport and Ethical Guidance

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6. Celebrated Athletes and Role Models

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pp. 131-154

Are famous athletes role models? Do celebrated athletes have special responsibilities to be good role models? Should we look to such public figures for examples of how to live or for advice about what to do, what to seek, or what kind of person we should be? For me, at least, a long-standing but dormant interest in such questions has...

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7. Coach as Sage

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pp. 155-184

The argument for the view that sports heroes are role models insists that celebrated athletes have a heightened influence on the conduct of others, especially children, yet there is nothing intrinsic to being a celebrated athlete that merits the status of being a moral exemplar,...

Part Three. Sport and Meaning

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8. Sport and the Question of the Meaning of Life

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pp. 187-220

Two stories, noteworthy for these reflections, were narrated in the daily sports pages to which I am devoted. One was a national story, all the rage on every sports-talk radio show in the country, the other a sad local account of a fallen young sports hero. These stories came together to once again raise an issue I have been thinking about...

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9. Meaning, Sport, and Deflationary Attitudes

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pp. 221-238

In the following discussion I attempt to place sport in the context of a more general account meaning and a scheme that identifies various areas in life in which people seek and provide meaning in and for their lives. I will end with some comments about the relative importance of raising the question of the meaning of life and...


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pp. 239-268


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pp. 269-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780803271654
E-ISBN-10: 0803271654
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803271531

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 842500449
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sport, Philosophy, and Good Lives

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sports -- Philosophy.
  • Sports -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Sportsmanship.
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