Action theory and the value of sport

Pike, Jon (2019). Action theory and the value of sport. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 46(1) pp. 14–29.



I present a corrective to the formalist and conventionalist down-playing of physical actions in the understanding of the value of sport. I give a necessarily brief account of the Causal Theory of Action (CTA) and its implications for the normativity of actions. I show that the CTA has limitations, particularly in the case of failed or incomplete actions, and I show that failed or incomplete actions are constitutive of sport. This allows me to open up the space for another model, drawn from Aristotle, for failed or incomplete actions, conceived of as ‘doables’. This avoids some of the problems of the CTA. I explain the importance of difficult but doable actions, at which athletes often fail, and suggest that this establishes pro tanto value. Finally, I claim that this account of the actions that are constitutive of sport deepens our understanding of the value of sport as a whole.

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