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R. Scott Kretchmar

Abstract

Loy and Morford focus on “agon” as an important window through which to understand human life and development. Competition in war and sport was culturally significant then, and it is culturally significant today, albeit in modified forms. In this commentary, I attempt to do two things – first, identify implications of some conceptual distinctions, and second, point out normative questions raised by the Loy/Morford analysis. I find it worthwhile to differentiate clearly between tests and contests. If the historical and sociocultural spotlight were turned on sporting “tests” rather than “contests”, that is, on trying to solve physically demanding problems well rather than trying to solve them better than at least one other party, then another story than the agonal account could be told. War would probably no longer serve as the best historical and prehistorical analogue for sport. Rather, it might be hunting. I add, that, on one hand, competitive sport is far less violent and, therefore, far more defensible today than it was previously. On the other hand, joy in playing is often sacrificed on the altar of any number of extrinsic rewards. Success, even gained by questionable means, replaces skill-based and virtue-generated achievement. This threatens the connection endorsed by MacIntyre between practices and virtues.

Open access

Ejgil Jespersen

Abstract

When reading the masterpiece about “The Agon Motif” by John W. Loy and W. Robert Morford (2019), I was struck by their recurrent reference to the pursuit of honor in agonal sport contests, as it has become common sense to replace honor with dignity in modernity. I take the German social-philosopher Axel Honneth (1995) as a prime example of spelling out the replacement of honor with dignity in what he names “the struggle for recognition”. In a historical perspective, however, it looks like, that dignity can be understood as a distribution of honor rather than as an oppositional concept of honor. Recognition should not only be conceptualized at the categorical level, but also understood in terms of ‘comparative recognition’, which sorts members of a group into an intra-group hierarchy based on their relative merits and, thereby, pave the way for self-esteem (Mark, 2014). Furthermore, Honneth (2008) develops his concept of recognition to a two-level one by including a primordial recognition in terms of mimesis based upon his former concept of basic self-confidence. It is a kind of elementary responsiveness, which always and necessarily contains an element of involuntary openness or devotedness in the bodily-affective sphere. Therefore, I suggest taking mimesis as the precondition of honor into account and understanding dignity as a distribution of honor in the institution of modern sport.

Open access

Jerzy Kosiewicz

Abstract

The term “physical culture” is, first of all, associated (referring to the etymology of the word “culture” from the Latin “colo,-ere”, meaning “to cultivate”, “to inhabit” or “to honor”) with cultivation and taking care of the human “physis” – obviously in the context of social and natural environment. What matters in physical cultural reflection is not movement as such – as a purely physical phenomenon – but only such a form of movement which has been cultivated and attributed with conventionalized social values of symbolic and autotelic character. Biological sciences connected with the human being are traditionally – after MacFadden, among others – counted among physical cultural sciences. Because of the bodily foundations of human physical activity, they perform a significant cognitive function: they describe natural foundations of special forms of movement, but they are not offering knowledge of cultural character. As there are no values in the human being’s nature, the biological sciences within the institutional field of physical culture can with their separate methodological and theoretical assumptions only offer an auxiliary, supportive function. Physical cultural sciences are primarily dealing with the significant relations between humans in physical cultural practices, with knowledge of an axiological (ethical and aesthetical) and social (philosophical, sociological, pedagogical, historical or political) character. The alleged superiority of biological sciences within physical cultural sciences and the connected marginalization of the humanities – which constitute, after all, a necessary and hence an unquestionable foundation for cultural studies – is, therefore, a clear challenge in the institutional field of physical culture.

Open access

John W. Loy and W. Robert Morford

Abstract

The contest element of modern sport has its ancient roots in the “agon” of early Greek life. We begin with an overview of the material and historical continuities in the social development of sport, followed by a discussion of our suppositions regarding the original linkage of sport and war in terms of what we call “the agon motif”, and conclude with speculations about residuals of the agon motif in modern sport. We argue it is important to recognize that notwithstanding of the many transitions and transformations in the social development of sport since the agon of Homeric and Hellenic Greek cultures there are notable, long-standing, material and historical continuities in the structure of sport and the ethos of agonal contests. To better depict the relationships between the concepts of sport and contest, we highlight these vestiges of agon. We employ the phrase “the agon motif” to embrace both the concept of “agon”and the concept of “aethlos”. In a structural sense the agon motif refers to the overall properties, processes, and products of agonal competition, including contestants, spectators, battle grounds, sporting venues, festivals and spectacles, prizes and award ceremonies. Whereas, in an ideational sense, the agon motif refers to the ethos of chivalric competition associated with the pursuit of prestige (status-honor) and the active quest to achieve excellence (bodily and moral) through physical prowess in agonal contests wherein individuals place their reputation, moral character, and at times, their very lives at stake. There is a close link to the cult of masculinity and masculine domination in the Western world, since the primary avenues of pursuing the agon motif through war and sport are two of the most highly and rigidly “gendered” activities in the history of humankind. We suggest that the most fundamental dynamic of the agon motif as well as the most enduring residual of the agon motif in modern sport is the pursuit of prestige, honor and excellence through physical prowess. The ethical framework of archaic (heroic) agon represents the epitome of a morality of honor and an ethics of virtue and offers a largely unfamiliar picture from a contemporary viewpoint of winning and losing in sport.

Open access

Roland Renson

Abstract

At a symposium on 12 June 2009 on “Homo Movens: International symposium on movement culture” at the occasion of my ‘rite of passage’ to the emeritus status at the KU Leuven, John W. Loy, co-authored by W. Robert Morford, presented a paper on “The agon motif: A study of the contest element in sport”. I am very glad that this excellent paper will finally be published as it was not included in “The making of sport history: Disciplines, identities and the historiography of sport” (Delheye 2014), which appeared five years later as a so called “…crystallization of the international symposium.” (p. XVII). Moreover, some of these contributions were severely criticized by Allen Guttmann (2014).

In this introduction, I will try to clarify the concepts of ‘ludodiversity’ and ‘movement culture’, which I have often had the chance to discuss with John Loy personally. We did – of course – not always agree but this kind of ‘joking relationship’ with John Loy was and still is for me a “… joy forever”!

Open access

Olav Ballisager

Abstract

Thanks to John W. Loy one of the recurrent themes in Institute of Scandinavian Physical Culture (ISPC) was “agon”. First, I offer some old Nordic examples on games – possibly with an agonal element. Then I focus on moral and character in order to identify some sort or a vestige of agon and revisit physical culture in terms of “idræt”, an old Nordic word for athletics and sport. Finally, I ask if there is – atavistic or not – in the modern world any glimpse of agonal behavior to be found and appreciated within the three realms or categories, which could be pillars of a physical education program: Nature, combat/competition and aesthetics. Would Edmund Hillary, Nelson Mandela and Pussy Riot qualify into a renewed, more general perception of agon?

Open access

Lukáš Mareš

Abstract

The process of philosophical questioning has the power to form not only our way of thinking, but also the way we live. Both my sporting and academic career have made me think about the importance of asking good questions and undergoing the process of answering them. I decided to create a profession of philosophical consultation in sport which works with athletes and coaches of various ages. Consultants and athletes (clients) engage in a dialogue about important and interesting questions/topics in client’s life. This dialogical process is called philosophical consultation. It focuses on critical evaluation and development of client’s thinking, self-cognition, and attitudes/worldviews. Philosophical consultation helps athletes and coaches to look for their identity and achieve better self-awareness. It can be argued that consultation offers what Patočka calls the “care of the soul” (epimeleia peri tês psychês) or what Foucault calls the “care of the self” (epimeleia heautou), which are based on Socrates’ kind of philosophizing. It helps to achieve ancient ideals of kalokagathia and gnôthi seauton. The potential of using philosophy in sport hasn’t been fully discovered. Philosophical consultation is presented as a process of self-cognition and inner development. It has the potential to influence the care for well-being of athletes and coaches.

I aim to explore the practical role of philosophy in sport. I will present possible connections between philosophy and sport and the historical predecessors of the concept of philosophical consultancy in sport. As well, we will discuss what philosophical consultancy is, how philosophical consultant works, and finally what are the challenges in bringing philosophical consultation into sport. Methods that are used in this interdisciplinary article are critical textual analysis, description, and interpretation of data.

Open access

Róbert G. Zimányi and Gábor Géczi

Abstract

The tennis Grand Slam tournaments play a key role among the major sport events. Sport has also got a social interest to strive for justice. Is the main draw always fair? Is the competition format system right? Overall: can we achieve a just final result? When answering these questions, we need to focus on the telos of the sport event. Present study shows the relating theories of justice and examines them in connection with the US Open: from the evolutionist conception, through Aristotle’s excellence-based justice theory, to egalitarianism, meritocracy, equity and it also analyses some issues around positive discrimination. The study examines the justice theories of the US Open 2017 Men’s Singles Tournament’s with special focus on the draw, the competition format system and the final result. An important point: we can only talk about justice if it is consistent with the telos of the event – this is an exclusion criterion. In addition to the systematic processing of justice theories, the research is based on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) official documents and on the case study: the official competition regulation and final result of the US Open 2017 Tournament. As an outcome of the research, we can conclude that several theories of justice appear in accordance with the telos of the US Open 2017 Tournament. Each element, namely the draw, the competition format system and the final result can be fair, however, they all depend on the applied theory of justice. Which theories should be applied in certain cases and why? The research also confirms that certain theories of justice do not match the telos of the US Open Grand Slam Tournament. These theories cannot be applied in certain cases. For future search areas we can examine other justice theories, or other related tennis event’s justice.

Open access

Petr Schlegel and Adam Křehký

Summary

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has become an independent sport discipline with its own distinctive aspects. It can no longer be perceived as before, as a compilation of other martial arts. MMA shows originality in training methods, health aspects, performance requirements or even moral-volitional qualities. The aim of the paper is to analyse the physiological aspects of MMA in both training and combat loads, to discuss the issue of injuries in MMA and to provide a comparison with other martial arts. Studies focusing directly on MMA wrestlers have been selected. These have included both amateur and professional athletes. The databases Pubmed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Scholar were used as sources. MMA ranks among sports with high-intensity workload, wrestlers achieve high levels of lactate and other metabolic markers. They need above-average aerobic capacity and perform well in upper body strength tests. Injury rates in MMA do not differ significantly from those in professional-level martial arts. Most injuries are associated with lacerations on the head. The requirements of extensive workload during performance must be reflected in training. Encouragement of aerobic and anaerobic endurance abilities in conjunction with optimum strength training seems crucial. It is essential to include prophylaxis as regards head concussions and strive for maximum safety of the sportsman during combat. Further research is required to confirm some of the conclusions, the limitations of which are due to the number and quality of the selected studies.