Playing Philosophy, Be Game!

9:20 from the Commentary Box: And he’s beginning to race towards the line..there’s a tremendous cheer from the crowd..the ball is played forward by All United’s Deckham, he’s onside into the penalty area and Fergio Camos diverts the ball away and the goal keeper, aahh, he pushes the ball back, successfully prevents a corner, concedes only a throw-in…Deckham runs up to to the right of the penalty box…Clooney trying to slip the ball through Dan Persie…intercepted by Camos AGAIN…Camos looks across to the referee, his face reads, where was the flag!

Twenty minutes into the game and I was beginning to question, exactly that, “Where is the flag?” Let’s say flag(of course metaphorically!) is that external force or guide of our panned out life in the empirical world. Something that is fundamental and that which transcends human comprehension. Then there is always the self and the other. The playing field, which is in its appearance all leveled. That is to say, we all are equals and the game of life is a fair play and of all that which is unfair, is all part of the game-the ‘bigger picture’. In the playing field, we all chose our own friends or team mates and enemies or opponents. We have a set of personal rules and those which are designed for us, say functions of morality and laws or duties and Aristotle’s goodwill. We all choose to break them or turn a blind eye to them once in a while. Sure, Karma comes calling soon after, sometimes in less severe forms, when a yellow card is just about enough, sometimes, it’s the greatest punishment, the red card! Then there is that, which is the sole motive in everyone’s life-That Cup! That singular strive for Oneness(work,faith or love). If you think, this is a far drawn analogy, let me back it up with some authority.

Everything on earth is a game. A passing thing. We all end up dead. We all end up the same, don’t we?”- Pele

And twenty minutes into the game, I dwelled deeper with how sports informs our idea of self. The singular skeleton of human life reconstructed on our knowledge. But is the knowledge of the mind or the body?

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” -Plato

So life is a culmination of various events, events which are made up of numerous discourses. Some discourses which steer the course of the subsequent discourses in life. Series of discourses informed by practical experience of the self constitutes to our subjective knowledge. Subjective knowledge with respect to movement can be understood from the perspective of existentialism and phenomenology. Phenomenology rejects mind-body dualism and gives a central perspective to “embodied consciousness”. Ellen Gerber explains that the individual self has human experiences in employing of conscious and intelligible action which seem improbable in a disembodied way. This further gives rise to the notion of somatic or perception of the body only by a first-person perspective. This forms the basis of sportsmanship. The freedom to focus one’s energies on the voluntary performance of one’s chosen action to experience oneself as a fully motivated, autonomous and integrated human being. A heightened awareness of self as an experience of the bodily activities leads to increased levels of performance. In sports, the use of such physical activities that are forms of primary experience is the subjective knowledge of the player. phenomenologicaly this implies that experiences of the lived body intensifies self-fulfillment.

At the same spectrum, Existentialism, Heidegger explains is existence as being-in-the-world, and the meaning(meaninglessness) attached to that understanding. Now this ‘existence’ is beyond the human consciousness, it is “the total human response to a perceived situation”. Existentialism enjoined with phenomenology, examines the sports persons’ situated involvement with the world. The intermingling of the lived life in a dynamic relation with thought. In an existential phenomenological approach, the player is a response to its stressors, culture, environment, pressures and obstacles. The sporting experience as experienced by the body and constant engagement on the field with fellow mates suggests greater involvement with self and sense of power. Being becomes ones source of learning.

On both the aspects, knowledge of the self is brought about by reflection of one’s own actions where physical activity is the primary source of gaining knowledge. This underplays the existence of an independent consciousness. The rational self of Descartes,I think therefore I am, is incomplete without experiences in understanding oneself , for, it is of the essence,, i.e “I am conscious of things, therefore I am”. In arena of sports, it raises particularly significant questions on the authority of the ethical self. If it is of this matter, do you mind?


The ball was fierce with the burning spirit of man, yet entrapped by a net of victory!

Chandrima Chattopadhyay

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2 responses to “Playing Philosophy, Be Game!

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