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Unformatted text preview: The Moral Significance of Sport Jan Boxill University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill There is no doubting that sports play a significant role in the lives of many Americans and indeed of many people around the world. What accounts for this fascination? It is doubtful that sports simply provide an outlet for violence in society. This is too simplistic. Sport, I maintain, fascinates for many reasons, including its beauty and its display of morally heroic virtues. Human beings admire the beauty and grace in sport; they are moved by the discipline of the best athletes; and often it is the heroism and courage in sport that they applaud, not the violence which occasion the display of these virtues.. But this is not all. I maintain that because of the nature and design of sport, sport provides a significant moral function both for the individual and for society at large. It does so first because it provides participants a vehicle for self-expression, and a means of self-respect and self-development. Sport in this sense may serve as what philosopher John Rawls calls a social union in a society of social unions, a community of people with shared ends and common activities valued for themselves, enjoying one anothers excellences and individuality as they participate in the activities. 1 Second, because sport is a microcosm of society, it dramatizes the social order. As a microcosm, sport represents the social order in miniature, a slice of life and exhibits that slice in an exaggerated and dramatic form, much as a play dramatizes an episode of life. Sport mirrors or reflects society, its virtues and vices, but unlike a mirror, which is passive, sport is active. It reflects back on society; its reflection affects what it is a reflection of. And finally, because sport functions analogously as an art form, as a controlled expression of emotion, it enhances the notion of sport as a social union, and further serves a significant moral function in the dramatization of sport as a microcosm of society. I. In its paradigmatic form, sport can serve illuminate its moral significance, both negatively and positively. Four features exemplify sport in its paradigmatic form: 1) Sport is a freely chosen, voluntary activity; 2) Sport is rule governed with two sets of rules; 3) Sport is physically challenging; 4) Sport involves competition in a mutual challenge to achieve excellence. 2 These features provide neither an exhaustive nor exclusive definition, but a model to examine the moral significant features of sport. First sport is a freely chosen, voluntary activity whose participation is an expression of the individuals creativity and his or her freedom to choose. Thus, sport is an unalienated activity, and as such is included in what Marx called the realm of freedom. As an unalienated activity, sport has as its end the activity itself. Thought it may serve other purposes, it is an activity complete in itself. It dos not have to have a product nor provide a service, nor is it a means to an end outside itself. have a product nor provide a service, nor is it a means to an end outside itself....
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- Spring '09