Philosophy of Sport from the Institutional, Content Related and Methodological Viewpoint

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Philosophy of Sport from the Institutional, Content Related and Methodological Viewpoint

In this article Author presents the dispute on the philosophy of sport. He points out four standpoints concerning the existence of the philosophy of sport: a) a commonsense one, b) a content related/methodological one, c) a reductionist one, d) a nihilistic one.

The first points out that the discussed branch of science exists, that its final stabilization took place in the years 1967-1979. That opinion is proclaimed by Wojciech Lipoński (an English philologist), who is supported by Zbigniew Krawczyk (a sociologist of culture, an outstanding sociologist of sport, he dealt also with philosophical aspects of sport, 1995, 1997a, 1997b), Stanisław Kowalczyk (an outstanding catholic philosopher, he expressed his opinions also on the philosophy and theology of sport 2002, 2007). That viewpoint, according to my exploratory talks, is shared by a majority of members of the British Philosophy of Sport Association, the European Association for the Philosophy of Sport and the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, mainly because of lack of proper preparation - that is, philosophical education.

The discussed standpoint has a commonsense character, since it does not tale into account the real level of contents of the philosophy of sport and relations taking place between it and general philosophy. It emphasizes only the first of the abovementioned requirements (the structural-functional one). Nobody of the abovementioned proponents of the first standpoint is aware of the need of meeting the two others of the abovementioned requirements - the content related one and the methodological one.

An exception in that respect is Rev. Stanisław Kowalczyk, who admittedly raises issues connected with those two others requirements, but the contexts of justification he has formulated have - especially in the content related respect - a commonsense character. Nota bene, statements of a similar character on fundamental issues happened even to the greatest philosophers, among others to Hegel. Moreover Kowalczyk considers also (although in a disputable way) methodological issues concerning methodological foundations of the philosophy of sport. Because of the fact that I do not agree with both content related and methodological argumentation of the great Catholic philosophers, I devote more space to a polemic against him - that is, justification of my standpoint - in the subsequent part of the text.

The second standpoint is expressed by Jerzy Kosiewicz. It is shared by, among others, Ivo Jirasek, Scott R. Kretchmar, Jim S. Perry, Arno Muller (it refers to arguments comprised in that text in part III and presented also in presence of the abovementioned persons during the conference of the IAPS in Olomouc in 2005). It assumes that the philosophy of sport exists, but solely in the institutional-organisational (structural-functional) sense. However, because of content related and methodological reasons, it is still in an early phase of development and hence we more have to do in that respect with philosophical reflection on sport - that is, in that case, with application of assumptions and issues from the field of general philosophy and specialized philosophies to ideography, explaining, understanding and evaluating phenomena as well as theoretical and practical activity connected with sport - than with the philosophy of sport in the strict sense of the word.

The third viewpoint suggests that the philosophy of sport has not come into existence yet. McFee in one part of his text entitled Do we need a philosophy of sport? (in: Are There Philosophical Issues Respect to Sport (Other Than Ethical Ones), 1998, pp. 3-18) undermines the sense of its existence. He wonders if it is needed at all and he proclaims, after a long argument, that it is not. He proclaims, not without a reason, that if in the process of creating the philosophy of sport we have to do solely with application of philosophy for reflection on sport, so, as a matter of fact, the philosophy of sport as such is not needed at all. The general philosophy will suffice as a theoretical foundation for reflection on sport, for explaining and understanding its sense, meaning, essence, cultural and biological background, social and psychological mechanisms, needs, motives, etc.

I suppose that working on that assumption we have to do rather with philosophical reflection on sport than with any form of the philosophy of sport. Nevertheless, the precondition of existence of the philosophy of sport in the strict sense of the word is referring to achievements of the whole philosophy. And philosophical reflection on sport is the first step on the road to creation of a fully autonomous and mature philosophy of sport.

Hence, I do not share the final McFee's conclusion included in the discussed text and proclaiming that the philosophy of sport as such is not needed, since each newly born philosophical branch goes through the application period, but, sooner or later, it breaks free from that initial content related and methodological dependence. It has also a right for its own academic name since the very beginning.

The fourth standpoint has a radical character. It proclaims categorically that any philosophical reflection on sport is unnecessary - similarly as neither the philosophy of railroading, nor the philosophy of transport as such, nor the philosophy of mining or carpentry are needed. It is proclaimed that there are such fields which may do without philosophy and which do not need philosophy for anything. They allegedly include physical activity, activity in the field of physical culture. That view is proclaimed and supported by, among others. Henning Eichberg and Ejgil Jespersen.

Author is not a proponent of that viewpoint, because physical culture and sport, among others because of their significance and range of social, cultural, health-related or axiological influences, implicate indubitably the need of cognitive studies of a philosophical character which should be continuously deepened and widened.

Defining organizational-institutional, content related and methodological deficiencies characteristic for the philosophy of sport Authors points out to barriers which must be overcome to enable its further development. It is facilitated by defining its identity. Author thinks at the first about institutional-organisational difficulties:

1. The philosophy of sport has not appeared in structures of many scientific and didactic institutions closely connected with sport.

2. Neither she is present in syllabuses and didactic of many of the abovementioned institutions.

3. About 85% of members the international, the British and the European association of philosophy of sport - as well as participants of conferences on the subject and research projects and teams - have no philosophical education.

4. Many former chairpersons of scientific associations in Europe and outside had no philosophical education. A majority of them played a remarkable organizational and institutional role connected with promoting and strengthening the status of the philosophy of sport. However, their activity only indirectly and insufficiently facilitated development of that philosophy in the content related and methodological sense.

5. The strictly philosophical milieu manifests poor interest in the philosophy of sport. A percentage of persons from that milieu who carry out studies connected with it or express their opinions about it are too low.

He thinks also that it is possible to distinguish the following content related and methodological deficiencies characteristic for the philosophy of sport:

1. Shortage of original assumptions and issues, which have been worked out solely on the ground of the philosophy of sport and are characteristic only for that discipline.

2. The discussed philosophy uses only languages of general philosophy and other specialised philosophies, referring to their terms, notions, categories, branches, circles, schools, currents, periods, ages, assumptions, issues, etc.

3. There is no feedback influence on general philosophy and specialised philosophies.

4. Literature on the philosophy of sport has introductory (initial) and applicative qualities.

5. Because of the abovementioned reasons, the philosophy of sport does not meet the fifth, the sixth and the seventh methodological condition concerning becoming independent from the abovementioned application and working out its own, specific assumptions and issues, as well as feedback influence. That is because such a situation makes it impossible to confirm not only its autonomy, but also its maturity.

6. Sports sciences (which, treated in a broader or different way, can be called physical culture sciences) have no common and coherent content related and methodological basis. They are very varied in that respect. It makes impossible coherent sublimation of that science in the form of the philosophy of sport. In that case, the first methodological criterion (according to S. Kamiński's interpretation), concerning its autonomy, is not fulfilled, because the subject of its interest connected with sports sciences has not been defined.

7. The fact that the philosophy of sport is not cognitively advanced (that is, there are no significant results of practising it), and that there are no means connected with the discussed activity (that is, a specialised methodology) and facilitating its development, causes that it is neither autonomous, nor mature from the viewpoint of the second methodological criterion according to Kamiński's interpretation.

8. A low level of meta-scientific self-definition of the philosophy of sport causes that the third methodological criterion according to Kamiński's interpretation, concerning self-reliance, is not fulfilled.

One of reasons of the abovementioned immaturity and lack of autonomy of the philosophy of sport is also lack of necessary research-related competences (the eighth criterion concerning specialized methodology is not fulfilled). It refers, on the one hand, to superficial and commonsense character of knowledge about phenomena and issues concerning sport - including knowledge from the field of sports sciences - and, on the other hand, to improper preparation, education and philosophical competences.

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