Many - if not all - sports seem to be only about winning. The rules of any particular sport determine what counts as permissible, and what counts as winning, and individuals and teams can "win ugly". In fact, winning is all that counts.

But it's possible to argue that this isn't the case at all. Anyone who has watched the Spain or Barcelona football teams over the last few years will know that both teams pride themselves on the aesthetic dimension of their football; in fact, some people have gone so far as to say that they've invented a new type of playing style.

But is it actually art, as such? Can a brilliant goal, e.g. Dennis Bergkamp's goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, actually have a purely aesthetic value?

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    Welcome to Philosophy.SE! I understand where you're trying to go with this question, but it is too subjective to fit well with this site. We typically discourage "doing" philosophy unless the question is very clearly defined in scope and has ample context to focus answers. The "art of sports" does not sufficiently meet these criteria. Look at it this way: what kind of answer are you expecting, and among several answers what would be the criteria to judge whether one is more correct than another? – stoicfury Jul 17 '12 at 18:41
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    What values could a 'goal' have? First you would need to define these, so that you could isolate the aesthetic value. 'Art' is a very problematic term, it can mean many different things. – Tames Jul 17 '12 at 19:29
  • anyone answering this, please consider stating what is your concept of art and what could or could NOT be considered art, as aesthetic value can be attached to just about anything. – Tames Jul 19 '12 at 16:32
  • @CharlieRobinson We let this one slide for a few days and you've accumulated a few answers, but you have yet to update your question in order to give it more focus and definition. I'm closing it for now, pending revisions. – stoicfury Jul 20 '12 at 21:45

I think these are two different questions. Whether something has aesthetic value is somewhat different than the question of whether it is art. A sunset is beautiful, but it isn't commonly considered art. The appreciation of nature and natural beauty is in the realm of aesthetics.

Sports would fall under the category of culture, certainly, and the appreciation of culture is a branch of aesthetics as well. So the appreciation of a style of play could be considered aesthetic appreciation.

For example, every play--a goal in hockey or soccer, a pass in football, a double play in baseball--has the same objective value. An out is an out, a point is a point. But editors on sports channels like ESPN use their aesthetic judgement to evaluate which plays are exceptional and feature them as highlights. Oftentimes sports that get very little attention will have featured highlights when someone does something extraordinary for the sport.

So, yes, the playing of sports has an aesthetic element and this element is generally appreciated by sports fans, but no, in the sports with objective scoring, the aesthetic value doesn't matter as much as the objective outcome.


I think much of sports is filled with artistic performance, having every feature associated with at least some other thing out there that is widely recognized as art.

Ballet, and especially what Circque de Soleil does, (a combination of dance, gymnastics, staging, music, and story telling) are certainly recognized as art. The biggest difference a great sidekick in to the goal has with these is its spontaneity, it's not being part of a scripted performance which is repeated many times. But of course, these great kicks are repeated when the situation arises that makes them possible. ANd many recognized artists do things that are not repeated, Cristo for example. Even within theater, improv bears similar features to sports performance.

I disagree with those voting your question down. It is a fascinating idea to consider, where does art end? What are the limits to the concept? Thanks for asking it, I enjoyed seeing the question.


I'm surprised that nobody mentions the "artistic sports". In gymnastics, high-diving, synchronised swimming, etc, points are scored purely on an "expert's" aesthetic aproval of your performance. I don't think anyone would argue that these are sports (except maybe synchronised swimming!) - but they are definitely art forms, and the scoring of them is certainly not entirely objective. You can't "win ugly" in these sports.

However, teams and individuals compete against each other with the intention of winning, by scoring more points than their competitors, exactly as in the general definition of "sport" (and the context you supply above).

So in these cases I think the answer is absolute - these are sports, and also art forms, in and of themselves.

  • as you state it, it seems that anything could be considered an art form (playing, cooking, fishing, driving...). I wonder what you mean with "art form". – Tames Jul 19 '12 at 16:03
  • When mentioning the athletic sports, how could you leave out ballet? And whatever it is that "cirque de soleil" does, a combination of dance, gymnastics, staging, music, and story telling that is incredibly physcially challenging to perform? – mwengler Jul 19 '12 at 16:10
  • Sports, in this context, is meant to refer to competitive sports. Dance and theater (which is, broadly, what Cirque de Soleil does) are generally considered to be in "the arts". And I would argue that gymnastics is not a sport, precisely because of the lack of and objective scoring, although I would agree that it is an athletic competition. – philosodad Jul 19 '12 at 22:57
  • +Tames - I think a short version of my definition of "art form" might be something along the lines of "something that has a primary purpose that is aesthetic, or subjective". Of course, I have to define "aesthetic" as more than just visually pleasing for this to fit. I have thought on this for a while, and find "art form" hard to define! – Ryno Sep 12 '12 at 15:07

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