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I Skate, Therefore I Am?

When I was at the University of Lethbridge a few years back, I needed a philosophy course in the summer to fill out my degree requirements and allow me to finish a year early. As I recall, there weren’t very many attractive offerings, so I ended up taking a course called “The Philosophy of Sport.” I thought this would be a kind of cream puff course without much substance, but it ended up being fairly interesting. Philosophers can subject a lot of innocuous looking activities to mind-numbing analysis, after all, so why not sport?

Well, apparently a couple of Quebec philosophers have decided to apply a bit of philosophical scrutiny to our favourite pastime: hockey.  Real Mental Toughness: Hockey and Philosophy

combines contributions from 16 Quebec writers with such essay titles as “The metaphysics of hockey,” “Kierkegaard and the art of goaltending in hockey,” “Esthetic elements of hockey” and “For a Kantian hockey.”

Among the other topics discussed in this volume are the ethics of deciding tie games by shootouts and the role of fighting in hockey.  For the record, I say get rid of shootouts (and five minute overtimes) and fighting.  As one contributor puts it,

those who maintain that fighting is an innate part of a physical game have surrendered to the Hobbesian view that man in his natural state is subject to violent passions and will use all means possible to vanquish his enemies.”

Brilliant.  I now have firm philosophical support for my views about this most important of subjects.  If only I could speak French.  Apparently the volume is not available in English just yet (here’s the link, if you happen to be bilingual).  Maybe if I learned French I could discover if the contributors to this volume have anything to say about the ethics of cheering for a hated (Canadian) rival once one’s own team has meekly and pathetically exited the playoffs…

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. So you are going with Hobbes on your anti-fighting position. Well, I prefer to side with Incarnation the little know philosopher nun (found beautifully showcased in the movie NACHO LIBRE) who said, “If you fight for cows ub de poor or por injuice-tease de Lord will bless jour baddle.” – you know just war theory…
    My condolences on your Flames’ post season hopes being doused – seems those Chicago people really know what to do with fire eh?

    April 29, 2009
    • First (and probably last) time I’ve heard “Nacho Libre” and Just War Theory in the same sentence. Well done Dale.

      I guess I’m going to have cheer for your Bruins now…

      April 29, 2009
  2. jc #

    I’ve noticed that this is the second time you have used the National Post as source material in your recent posts. Thats 2 for the NP and 0 for the Walrus this year by my count. Are you turning into some sort of right wing ideologue?

    April 29, 2009
    • A right wing ideologue, eh? Well, probably not just yet. I still dutifully subscribe to (and read) The Walrus and actually have an unfinished post about a recent article somewhere in my drafts folder. I read the Post every now and then—I like to read about things from a different perspective. I thought their recent take on the Maclean’s survey about religious tolerance was pretty much bang on (even if I would still self-identify as left of centre politically…)

      April 29, 2009
  3. Mike C. #


    “Hate” is such a strong word. I can only presume you are talking out the Canucks here. Well, just remember where you will be sleeping next week…just remember.

    May 1, 2009
    • Mike, I can neither confirm nor deny that I am talking about the Canucks (at least not until after I’ve taken advantage of your hospitality!).

      May 2, 2009

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