It is a very common opinion in my circles to either hate sports or invalidate it as a form of entertainment. None of them play sports, and those who do/did don't/didn't enjoy the experience. Now I've been keeping up with and watching rowing recently, and I must say that I find it quite entertaining (I was on a rowing team for a time).
However, my peers think otherwise. They object that all sports are meaningless activities of movement of matter (getting a ball in a basket, kicking it back and forth across the field) for a goal with no ultimate value (finishing 1st, new best time, etc.), and therefore liking/doing sports is irrational or even a waste of time. I don't find this criticism particularly worrying, because all things considered, every act is reducible to absurd atomic descriptions, and the goal of watching sports is to provide entertainment, and my goal for doing sports is to improve my physical condition and work ethic: two things that I doubt anyone would discount as wastes of time. Even if you're some absurdist/nihilistic physicalist, all actions are brought to the same level of pointlessness; this would defeat the same criticism.
The more worrying objection regards the justification of (specifically) watching sports. I've thought at one moment that my liking to watch rowing was justified because, as it was a form of entertainment, I was being entertained. However, you likely would not call someone who finds entertainment value in slowly squeezing people's lungs until they die justified for their proclivity. Thus liking to watch a sport on the grounds that it's entertaining alone doesn't seem to be a sufficient justification.
Let's say that Bob enjoys reading, specifically encyclopedias. His justification for liking to read is that he gets to increase and fine-tune his knowledge base. Now this instance seems to me to not really be about the activity. It's about the ends of the activity (e.g. expanding one's knowledge base). You're not reading for reading's sake; you're reading for the sake of the attainment of knowledge. However, this makes the unfortunate distinction between liking something for what it is in virtue of itself and liking something for what its consequences. I don't think there's really any activity that's done for its own sake, and fundamentally, all forms of entertainment act as vehicles for happiness/fulfillment of desire: the ultimate bottom-line(s). So the only things that differentiate Bob's justifications and a sports-watcher's justifications are the "in-between" attitudes and reasons. Why might the expansion of one's knowledge base be a better justification for an action than the suspense of competition in sport?
Now let's change scenarios to something that a friend of mine would likely endorse: Bob enjoys watching movies because he is fascinated and inspired by the motifs and symbols used. The problem with this seems to me that Bob is justifying his affinity for movies by appealing to his affinity for something else. It begs the question as to why Bob is "fascinated and inspired by the motifs and symbols used." The original statement can be reduced to something like "The reason Bob likes to watch movies is because he likes clever storytelling devices." It's not much of a justification.
Perhaps sports are intrinsically fun for some of us the same way apples are intrinsically desirable for apple-lovers. If this is the case, then there's really no significant justification to be given for watching sports. However, I doubt that this is the case for anyone, and this might seem to fall back to the example with the sadist who finds entertainment value in choking people to death.
Anyway, that was a long-winded path to ask:
- Are people justified in watching sports? If so, how?
- Are people justified in partaking of organized entertainment? If so, how?
- What makes an action justified? The answer is a lot clearer when the question asks about justified belief (like the "J" in JTB), but how are actions justified in ethics?
- Is it rational to enjoy watching a sport for the sole reason that the sport is fun to watch?
- Is it possible for the desirability of sports for some people to be a brute fact? Can sports be intrinsically fun?