Presentation scheduled for International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, September 3-6, 2014
Whether sports and games should be considered art is an unresolved issue. The great bulk of the debate concerning this matter — lively at the time — took place more than twenty years ago. During that debate, there was much agreement that sports and games have aesthetic properties, but little consensus that sports and games are art.
In this essay, I argue that unresolved issues associated with this previous debate affect sports and games equally, and that any true resolution must engage the common purposiveness of sports and games: their competitive purposiveness. Once this purposiveness is engaged, it is possible to qualify the aesthetic properties of sports and games using two concepts — intentionality and expressiveness — that are conventionally associated with art and the artistic. While the play of sports and games does not display precisely the same sort of intentionality and expressiveness that is associated with art and the artistic, that play has characteristics that, given some leeway, are very similar in form and in effect. The competitive purposiveness of sports and game is then used to explain how sports and game might be most reasonably considered art, and why, in the past, they have often not been.