The Philosophy of Sport as Artistic Expression

Danny Shorkend


While there is no “expressive theory of sport”, there is certainly, according to Hyland (1984, 1990), Osterhoudt (1973), Kerr (1997) and Weis (1969) a pivotal role played by emotions and feelings in sport which amount to a type of expressive theory and in that sense it parallels expressive theories in art. In this article I will first isolate three moments that capture sports performance and parallel art. Then, I will describe sport as an expression of emotional release, which is often how one understands art. Based on such overlaps, I will argue for two philosophical observations that devolve from such a comparison, namely ineffability and the unity of mind-body (in sport). Finally, I will apply a reading of Kant to sport, in order to substantiate the idea that sport, like art draws from a philosophical heritage.

Imagine three isolated “steps” in sport: the focus before performance; the performance itself and the fan’s response as they articulate the emotional basis of sport which is familiar, albeit perhaps subconscious. After a brief analysis of these imagined images, I give a simplified historical outline of sport which describes the feeling-basis of play that forms the foundation for modern sport. I then examine what I have termed the “(surplus) expressive-energy theory of sport” which I have gleaned from the above writers, a theory that argues that sport is the expression of inner emotional states. Such states are in need of expiation of both the practitioner as well as the expression of certain basic emotions on the part of the audience. A narrower version of this theory is that sport is the release of aggressiveness, which coheres with its instinctual origins and the “surplus theory”. A critique of sport as expression (of surplus energy, aggression…) follows with a view to highlight some shortcomings in the ideas presented and thus the need for further theories to account for the multi-faceted nature of sport, a similar requirement that is needed for art given the shortcomings of expressive theories as applied to the arts.

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

International Journal of English and Cultural Studies 

ISSN  (2575-811X)  E-ISSN  (2575-8101)

Copyright © Redfame Publishing Inc.

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.

If you have any questions, please contact: