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The Greek historian Diogenes Laërtius reports that Thales of Miletus (circa late seventh century to early sixth century BCE), who is generally credited as the first true philosopher, fell into a well while he was looking at the stars one night, for which he was mocked by his family. This image has persisted for centuries: absorbed in the affairs of the mind, philosophers are sometimes oblivious to the world around them. Even today, people still associate philosophers and philosophy with the cliché image of the bespectacled nerd, with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. Amusing though the image may be, it is a caricature. After all, philosophers have no monopoly on pondering—or absent-­ mindedness, for that matter! This caricature denies the fact that philosophers have always been interested in the physical world, material reality, moral and political life, the relationship between body and mind, and many other subjects besides—which provides evidence (as though evidence were needed) that they do indeed have their feet on the ground. This book is dedicated to hockey and serves as further evidence of philosophical groundedness. However, it does belong to a genre, the philosophy of sport, which is fairly recent on the scene— scarcely half a century old. Considering most traditional disciplines of philosophy have been around for two and a half millennia or so, the new kid on the block deserves a closer look. Introduction Hockey and Philosophy.indd 13 15-11-02 15:54 xiv Hockey and Philosophy As we know, it was the Greeks who basically invented Western philosophy. Like the Romans after them, the Greeks placed a lot of importance on sport and saw physical activity—their famous gymnastics —as an indispensible part of a proper education. Mens sana in corpore sano, or “a healthy mind in a healthy body,” as the Romans put it, is in reference to the words of the poet Juvenal. So the philosophers of the ancient world belonged to cultures that very much valued the body and physical activity. And yes, some of them even actively practised various sports. Did you know that Aristocles, whom history remembers as Plato (from platús, “broad, wide”), was so named by his gymnastics teacher, Ariston, because of his robust physique? Or that Pythagoras, the figure who actually coined the word “philosophy,” was a formidable athlete who participated in many Olympiads and won every boxing competition in the year 552 BCE?1 That Cleanthes was a boxer before succeeding Zeno as the head of the Stoic school? That Thales himself was passionate about gymnastics and died while attending a sporting competition? Closer to home, Russell’s passion for walking , Heidegger’s for skiing, Umberto Eco’s for soccer, and Derrida’s for exercise biking are widely known. Yet surprisingly, sport is largely absent from the history of phi­ losophy. We find a smattering of references to sport, of course, but these are mainly incidental, used merely to illustrate an idea or to support a thesis. Why is this the case? There are any number of reasons . One could be forgiven for thinking that philosophers see sport as a trifling, even superfluous, activity, and therefore unworthy of formal study. And perhaps the disregard for the body imposed by the major monotheistic religions—or at least the body’s secondary importance in those traditions—has contributed to this trend and long prevented philosophers from taking a good hard look at sport. This shameful situation was to change radically in 1969 with the publication of Sport: A Philosophic Inquiry by American philosopher 1. When it comes to Pythagoras of Samos, there may be a classic confusion between the mathematician and a gymnast who attained a certain celebrity in the sixth century BCE. Hockey and Philosophy.indd 14 15-11-02 15:54 Introduction xv Paul Weiss. The book is widely considered to have made sport a legitimate object of philosophical study and made “philosophy of sport,” a branch of philosophy in its own right, one that is now thriving .2 But what exactly do we mean by the term? The philosophy of sport Quick refresher: philosophy is divided into disciplines (epistemology , ethics, aesthetics, and so on), each with its own general concepts , theories, and methods that it applies to given topics such as education, the environment, or, in this case, sport. The philosophy of sport attempts to clarify the highly complex notions that sport brings into relief (competition, justice, etc., not to mention the notion...


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