Philosophy in The World – Sports

To me, philosophy is the search for the meaning of life. Its constantly asking the question “why?” and contemplating the world around us as well as, the nature of human thought concerning concepts of right and wrong behavior and deciding the principles of right conduct.


This definition connects to Mill’s theory of utilitarianism because it focuses on the foundation of morals, and the correct ways to live focusing on happiness and pleasures. This relates to my personal definition because I believe philosophy focuses on concepts that revolve around the meaning of life and the correct ways in which you should live it. Although Mill’s theory of utilitarianism focuses on what is for the benefit of the majority, this should be a guiding principle for each individual. Mill’s states, “Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” This is an effective way to determine what the right decision to make is, and way to contemplate and consider the world around us.

An activity I chose, is one I’m involved with at UBC which is track and field. Based on my personal definition of philosophy this activity would qualify because it challenges individuals morals, ethics, and integrity. Not only does it call into question morals and ethics on a personal level, it opens up the discussion to the public surrounding issues regarding morals and ethics in sport. For instance, performance-enhancing drugs is often a heavily debated topic within the sports community and is not an unfamiliar one within track and field. This violation of the “spirit of sport” calls into question the ethics behind fair play and honesty which can result in unhappiness and dissatisfaction for teammates, fans, competitors, and the individual themselves. The ethics that are ingrained in our laws and the ones we abide by in our daily lives carry over into sports, it is how we ought to be and should not to be compromised. It becomes a philosophical question when a predominant majority is using performance-enhancing drugs, is it okay if the individual partakes as well. This raises doubt in individuals moral principles because they are deciding whether or not also artificially increasing physical capabilities to be equal to competitors is right or wrong. Of course, the answer would be that it is wrong to partake because it is unfair, this is a perspective Kant would share because regardless of what the others are doing, it is still a direct violation of the rules of conduct. Despite how much personal gain the individual will obtain, the act is unjust. Shafer-Landau Exalaims in a Kantian perspective: Fairness and Justice  “When we make an exception of ourselves, we are acting as if we were more important than anyone else, and going on as if we were exempt from rules that others must obey. But we are not more important than others, and we are not exempt from these requirements.” This can be applied to the situation even though others are using performance-enhancing drugs, neither they nor the individual is exempt from following the rules.

Philosophy in the World: MLB Opening Day and Baseball Players

For me, philosophy is all about questioning our lives and the things we do. In my opinion, it is essential for us to believe that our lives have a purpose and that they are meaningful because if they don’t then why are we here and what are we doing? If we don’t think our lives have any meaning then we are simply just going through the motions and doing random things for several years. In this regard, I would say that my definition of philosophy is similar to what Susan Wolf discusses in her book “The Variety of Values: Essays on Morality, Meaning and Love”, specifically in the chapter called “The Meaning of Lives.” In this chapter Susan discusses what she believes we must do in order to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Although Susan goes into much more depth, she briefly gives a quick explanation of what she believes a meaningful life is when she says “A meaningful life is one that is actively and at least somewhat successfully engaged in a project (or projects) of positive value” (Wolf, pg. 7).

This past Monday was the Opening Day for the 2017-2018 MLB (Major League Baseball) season. As I am someone who is a huge fan of the MLB, and baseball in general, this day has been marked on my calendar for a long time. On Monday, Opening Day caused all of my social media feeds (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat) to absolutely blow up because it was all everyone was talking about. This prompted my teammates and I to begin talking about the upcoming MLB season at the hockey rink before our practice. During our conversation, one of my teammates walked into the dressing room and made a comment saying that Opening Day shouldn’t be such a big deal and how it’s actually sad that this is one of the world’s biggest concerns when there is so many more important things going on in the world. After discussing Susan Wolf and her ideas of what it means to live a meaningful life earlier that day in our lecture I thought this was the perfect moment for me to start asking my teammates if they thought athletes, specifically baseball players, live meaningful lives in regards to the context that Susan Wolf explains.

When going into more depth, Wolf focuses on three main aspects that she believes determines if your life is meaningful or not. Those three aspects are passivity, useless and bankrupt (Wolf, pg. 6-7). When referring to passivity she explains that this is someone who is achieving nothing and isn’t connected to anyone or anything (Wolf, pg. 6). An example of this that she gives is a couch potato, someone who sits on the couch all day and just eats, drinks and watches television all day (Wolf, pg. 6). She then goes on to explain her concept of useless by stating that these people “can all be characterized as lives whose dominant activities seem pointless, useless, or empty” (Wolf, pg. 6). She says that someone who can exemplify uselessness does things to fight off boredom like shopping, going out to eat and travelling (Wolf, pg. 6). Finally, when referring to bankrupt she explains that this is someone involved in a project, or projects, that fail (Wolf, pg. 7).

After reading and considering these features that Wolf discusses in her article I believe that athletes, specifically baseball players, do live meaningful lives. When referencing passivity, you can definitely say that baseball players aren’t couch potatoes since they practice and play frequently. Also, they are connected to something, baseball. Baseball is their passion and that’s what gets them up and out of bed every morning. Secondly, I wouldn’t say that what baseball players are doing is useless. It isn’t something that they do because they are bored. For most of them I would say that the reason why they play is to win a World Series which is something they have been dreaming and aspiring for since they were little kids. This goal is what gives them meaning to what they’re doing, this is their motivation. This is what makes what they’re doing meaningful and not useless in my opinion. Lastly, Wolf’s idea of bankrupt is the only one I find tricky. In the MLB there is 30 teams and only one team wins the World Series which means that technically all of the 29 losing teams seasons have been failures since everyone’s goal is to win the World Series. But, to justify this for the losing teams I would say that if the team has made progress from the previous season then it’s not a failure. For example, if the team has moved up in the standings or got more points than the previous season then I wouldn’t say it was a failure of a season since progress has been made. Other than that, I guess it could be argued that the losing teams have participated in a failed project. But, we should remember that these players love baseball so regardless if they win the World Series or not they are doing what they love so for them it might not be seen as a failure.

Like I stated earlier, for me philosophy is about questioning our lives the everyday things we do so that we can see if there is meaning behind what we are doing. I think by doing this and living with this philosophical mindset we can ensure that we are live a meaningful and purposeful life, which in my opinion is what philosophy is all about. This past year I was an assistant coach for a kid’s hockey team where the kids were in between the ages of seven to nine. Whether it be during practice, during a game, or in the dressing room I believed that what I was doing was meaningful. Every day I went to the rink with the mindset that I was going to do everything I can to make these kids better so that one day they can hopefully fulfill their dreams of playing in the NHL (National Hockey League). For me, this is doing something philosophical because it checks off Wolf’s criteria of what living a meaningful life needs to consist of. I wasn’t being passive because I was going to the rink multiple times a week for practices and games, it wasn’t useless because I was emotionally connected to that team since I truly believed I was making a difference in these kids’ lives and lastly it wasn’t a failure since we ended up finishing first place in our league. That is why I believe my coaching was a philosophical act.