Overcoming Marginalization and Insignificance: A Pragmatic Critique and Reconstruction of Sport Philosophy

Open Access
Elcombe, Timothy Laird
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 28, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Robert Scott Kretchmar, Committee Chair
  • Mark Dyreson, Committee Member
  • Douglas Ray Hochstetler, Committee Member
  • Doug Anderson, Committee Member
  • Vincent M Colapietro, Committee Member
  • William J Morgan, Committee Member
  • pragmatic method
  • sport philosophy
  • John Dewey
  • sport humanities
In the current cultural climate, philosophy is perceived by many as an irrelevant professional enterprise. Similarly, higher education’s twenty-first century economic mindset marginalizes the value of humanistic disciplines such as philosophy. Sport philosophers must deal with both of these social realities, as well as the fact that kinesiology departments increasingly devalue the study of sport. Sport philosophers are not merely victims, however. The field’s practitioners are also complicit in sport philosophy’s current marginalized and irrelevant status by employing limited critical methods, using impoverished tools for inquiry, and adopting misguided philosophical purposes. This project seeks to overcome the academic marginalization and lack of public voice that now plagues the field of sport philosophy. This will be accomplished by first using the work of John Dewey to engage in a pragmatic critique and reconstruction of the field of sport philosophy. In particular, I will critique the conceptions of metaphysics, the theories of experience, and the notions of truth and meaning adopted by the field’s dominant paradigms—metaphysical constructionism and metaphysical deconstructionism. Following this critique, I will pragmatically reconstruct sport philosophy by re-conceptualizing lived experience, truth and meaning, as well as philosophy more generally. In the end, I will implore sport philosophers to make four commitments that could enhance the field’s academic standing and social relevance. First, sport philosophy must become radically empirical. Second, sport philosophy must employ a grounded notion of abstract thought. Third, sport philosophers must aim to improve sport. Finally, sport philosophers must function as a community of inquirers—as philosophers and with other sport theorists more generally.