Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Something to Behold: The Distinct Spiritual Values of Art and Sport

Tara Smith


Sports and the arts are alike, for their audiences, in their relative detachment from ordinary utilitarian concerns. Viewers’ lives remain essentially unchanged at the conclusion of the match or the drama. Yet the ubiquitous interest in sports and the arts, historically and globally, along with the intensity of passion that each can rouse, raise natural questions about the benefit of engagement with these artificial realms. This paper explores the respective values of sports and the arts for the viewer.

After briefly registering some of the oft-remarked similarities in the appeal of each, the paper posits a more fundamental common dimension: the way in which both sports and the arts offer spiritual values by offering the material manifestation of important abstract ideas. It proceeds to outline the quite distinct ways in which sports and the arts do this.

First, it identifies four respects in which artworks seem to offer a more philosophical “take” on life, effectively presenting a fundamental worldview. It then observes three important respects in which sports provide messages that the arts cannot.

The paper’s overall aim is not to anoint either realm as definitively superior, but to better appreciate the exact rewards that each of them can offer to a flourishing human life.

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