Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.1A, 231-239
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 231
Plato & Dukor on Philosophy of Sports, Physical Education
and African Philosophy: The Role of Virtue and Value in
Maintaining Body, Soul and Societal Development
Ani Casimir
Department of Philosophy, I n s titute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria
Received December 13th, 2012; revised January 14th, 2013; accepted Jan uary 28th, 2013
To the question, “what is sports”, or what is a good sports activity or event, I am sure Plato would know
what to say, using references to his philosophical division of man into three parts, namely: the appetite
soul; the emotional soul and the reasonable soul. Plato would have said that sports comes from the human
person and being, and so, for any particular sports to be accorded the accolade of goodness it must have
the correspondence of the three constituent parts of man’s true nature. The concept of the soul in Plato is
what exploring just as that of Professor Maduabuchi Dukor’s expositions concerning the African phi-
losophical concepts of soul, mind, spirit and body as they affect philosophy of sports and the discipline of
physical education. The article will therefore analyze the link between Plato concept of the good sports,
Professor Dukor’s ontological ideas about the African core values as they affect the balance, harmony and
health both the mind and body of the human being. The central point here is the analytical framework of
enquiry which Plato sustained in his Dialogues when he queries people: “what is this?”. By this he wants
people to appreciate the fact that when they are in search of truth, they usually have the impression that
they have all when, actually, they have only half-baked understanding of issues. It is important therefore
to understand the issues involved in the disciplines of physical education, philosophy of sports, ethics and
the ontological frame of African philosophy as profiled under Professor Dukor theistic humanism of Af-
rican philosophy. Centrally, the dialectical link between Plato and Dukor will expose the ethical dimen-
sion to sports development since every thing is not wining and money or drugs should not be the ultimate
motivation for sports and physical exercises. The exercise of sports should lead to the dual development
and balance of both mind and body; the highest being the competition of the soul with itself and not with
others in which laurels, gold or money is won or lost. The man who wins is the one, like in the communal
spirit of the African ontology, who has conquered over his selfishness and sacrifices for the good of the
Keywords: Theistic Humanism; Values; African Philosophy; Philosophy of Sports; Physical Education;
Platonic Idealism
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Platonic dialogue
and inquiry concerning the basic issues of existence is his ex-
posure of the total or visible ignorance of people involved in
both private and public discussions with him. The path of
Plato’s philosophic ascension into truth exposes the incomplete
and half-baked comprehension of his co-contributors to every
philosophical forum convened in the Republic. As in the past,
the questions could be put before us either in the disciplines of
philosophy of sports, or physical education: “what is good
sports?”; “what is the role of ethics in sports development?”;
“what is philosophy of sports?”; “what is physical education?”,
or, actually, “what is the relationship between all these funda-
mental issues and how do they relate to African philosophy,
especially the core values related by him under his concept of
theistic humanism? It when issues and critical questions such as
these that people now know that they lack a full comprehension
of what things are implicit and explicit in conceptual enquiries
about truth. The awareness of incomplete conceptual grasp or
cognition of an issue should be the goal of every rational being,
especially in understanding the real existential purposes why
people indulge in sports or play games. Metaphorically, the
game of life is an extremely philosophical an ethical business in
which people should integrate the values and be virtues in their
sporting objectives and goals. People trained and well educated
in the philosophy of sports and physical education should be
idealistic in the highest goals of wining, not over others alone
but over their lower selves so as to discipline their weaknesses
of self and selfish sporting objectives. If they assume and prac-
tice these higher sporting goal and ideals they should then use
the ideals of the Olympics as their mirrors and strategic targets
of wining or losing. Ironically if they lose in the material field
of play, they should not at the same time lose their game of self
control and mastery over their self ethical discipline; if they win
in the material field of play they should not lose sight that the
best wining is yet the moral mastery of soul over their selfish
content and hubris. This is the essence of gamesmanship,
sportsmanship and the Olympic ideals. The role of ethics or
virtue ethics has been less clear than it can and should be, espe-
cially in sports. It is important that we should shed some light
on these confusions and then close with a few thoughts on the
distinctive contribution virtue ethics can make to sporting and
ethical relations. Daryl Koehn (1995) contributed to the enquiry
by sepa rating severa l key topics or issues that often arise when
virtue ethics are discussed in every day context such as business
or, for me, in a sporting space and time context:
1) What is an ethic of virtue, and how, if at all, does it
differ from the other ethics offered by deontologists, utili-
tarians. Stoics, etc.?
2) What is the relation among these various ethics? In
particular, does virtue ethics ground these ethics or vice
versa? Or are the ethics equally fundamental and thus best
viewed as complements to one another?
3) If each ethic offers discrete and distinctive insights into
what constitutes moral human behavior, what contribu-
tions does an ethic of virtue offer. While distinct, these
three questions are clearly interrelated in a number of
ways. For example, what insights each ethic offers de-
pends upon the tenets of that ethic. However, since my
space here is limited and since the second question of the
foundational status of the various ethics is quite complex,
I will limit my comments to the first and last questions
concerning the character of virtue ethics and its value in
the study of business practice.
He therefore linked virtue ethics as ideal to every human ac-
tivity, given that every action is performed by an agent and has
an outcome, every ethic in some fashion must treat of outcome,
act and actor. This observation has Led Daryl Koehn to observe
that the various ethics of virtue only differ with their area of
focus and their consequences to societal development:
The different ideas of virtue ethics have led some to con-
clude that the various ethics are best seen as differing ac-
cording to where they put their primary focus. Thus virtue
ethics is sometimes described as emphasizing the charac-
ter traits of the agent, while utilitarianism concentrates on
outcomes and deontological ethics on the act itself. How-
ever, this description of virtue ethics is somewhat mis-
leading because outcome and act are central to the work-
ings of a virtue ethics such as Aristotle’s. For Aristotle,
character development is an inevitable outcome of the act.
Consequently, outcomes are every bit as important in Ar-
istotle’s ethics as they are in John Stuart Mill’s as ideal
character and behavior result from the content of each
The development of character and behavioral ideals should
be the goals of competitive or any aspects of sports. In the last
decade, among the different sub-disciplines of philosophy and
the philosophy of sport, there is no doubt that the sub-field
“ethics of sport” has been expanding and growing for the same
reasons of clearing some confusion surrounding the precise
nature and scope of the concept “sports ethics”, philosophy of
education. Professor Dukor’s humanistic theism and Plato’s
concept of the good spors will contribute no doubt to this ex-
pansion in understanding and conceptual clarity itself. The
achievement of dissipating conceptual confusion will result
when we observe some important distinctions and contributions
from these areas that have helped to built the ethical and moral
ideals that have brought about this transformation in rational
sporting thinking. McNamee, M. J. and Parry, S. J. (Eds.)
(1998), in their work on the Ethics of Sport Edited Collections
and Anthologies, Jim Barry introduced the summary of their
This volume was the first international edited collection of
essays in the ethics of sports and made a very significant
contribution to establishing the field of sports ethics. Its
scope was broad and included topics from East and West
but also included representatives from a variety of phi-
losophical perspectives. It attempted to explore the links
between sports ethics and what is sometimes referred to as
“mainstream” philosophy, various traditional contexts for
sports ethics (Physical Education and Coaching) and to
raise contemporary issues with some philosophical depth.
It was only partly intended as a teaching resource, operat-
ing at a fairly advanced level, but the paucity of available
literature at the time meant that it became used interna-
tionally as an undergraduate text also. Since that time,
with the development of many more resources, it tends to
be used as a text in graduate classes.
The “Ethics of sports” went further to take a critical look at
the contribution of Philosophy to sports development by as king
questions such as “are there philosophical issues with respect to
sport (other than ethical ones)? (Graham McFee); is Metaphys-
ics: a precursor to good sports ethics (R. Scott Kretchmar);
what is the erelation between ethics and the double character of
sport: an attempt to systematize discussion of the ethics of sport
(Johan Steenbergen & Jan Tamboer) .It also evaluated the con-
cept of Fair Play and Sporting Behaviour by critiquing games,
rules and contracts (Simon Eassom); fair play: historical
anachronism or topical ideal? (Sigmund Loland); respect for
persons in sport and games (Cei Tuxill & Sheila Wigmore).
Most importantly, it examined the relationship between ethics,
physical education and sports coaching as it asked a fundamen-
tal question: what moral educational significance has physical
education? A question in need of disambiguation (David Carr).
Significantly, one central discourse in the book relates to the
moral development research in sports and its quest for objectiv-
ity (Russell Gough); building trust as virtues and rules in the
ethical conduct of sports coaches (Mike McNamee) and the
contemporary ethical issues in sports development. The seg-
ment of the this seminal contribution that relates to the theistic
humanistic values of Professor Dukor has to do with the aspect
that looks at multinational sport and literary practices and their
communities: the moral salience of cultural narratives (William
J. Morgan); violence and aggression in contemporary sport (Jim
Parry); cheating and self-deception in sport (Gordon Reddiford);
private autonomy and public morality in sporting practices
(Terence J. Roberts) and exploring the relationship between
Heidegger and sport (Paul Standish). In the book, Sport, Play
and Games Suits, B. (2005), as reviewed by both J. S. Russell
and Steven Edwards in Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, Vol. 1,
No. 1, pp. 105-112, the relationship between sports and ethics
is given further insight:
This is the most widely discussed book in the philosophy
of sport, yet it was not really conceived as a book in the
philosophy of sport. Suits’s primary concern is to respond
to Wittgenstein’s claim that it is not possible to define
terms such as “game”. Suits disagrees, and defines games
as “the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obsta-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
cles”. Suits explains sport as a subset of games; they are
games which require physical skill, have stability and a
wide following. Suits also makes the additional claim that
games should be thought of as central to any conception
of Utopia. All this is done through the medium of a dia-
logue between the Grasshopper of Aesop’s fable and his
disciples (the most prominent of which is named Skepti-
cus) on the nature of the good life.
In all aspects of sports these ideals are enshrined as fair play
in the field of sports which players and competitors should
emulate. When sports players and competitors have and embed
these ideals in their sporting attitudes, then they a good phi-
losophy of sports; when the graduates of physical education
graduate from the their colleges and Universities, then they are
good graduates who could inject human and ethical values of
communalism into sports activities in Africa. The search for
this full conceptual grasp should begin with our understanding
of what is sports; what is good sports; what is philosophy of
sports; what is physical education and what is the implications
of the platonic reasonable soul to self knowledge and Dukor’s
concept of African philosophy as projected under his theistic
humanism and the ethical body with the communal values of
serving and living for others in the community rather than just
to win or compete with others. This critical understanding of
these basic concepts as revealed in the disciplines of physical
education, philosophy of sports, ethics and African philosophy
will be used to illustrate the truism and principle that good
sports is wining over one’s selfishness and living for the good
of others in the African community. In African today sports
should not create ill-feeling or hatred between competitors but
the good feeling of neighborliness, peace, self and community
sacrifice. This should lead us to identify the three parts of the
soul and their corresponding implications and levels for sports
development for the modern Africa. Plato’s basic concepts of
his philosophy relates to his hierarchical division of the human
soul into three parts viz the appetitive soul; the emotional soul;
and the reasonable soul. Sport is a fundamentally a human ac-
tivity initiated by man; hence, its activity could be divided into
the three parts of the soul as correspondence to measure and
evaluate their quality. In the same vein, what is good sports
must follow from what is good philosophy of sports, ethical
values and curriculum of physical education. In Professor Du-
kor’s theistic humanism of African philosophy man’s essential
humanity comes to the fore when his values serve and promote
the development of the community. Such values which derive
their power from the theistic human values of African philoso-
phy, according to him is the saving value of the philosophy of
humanism; as theism and its spiritual powers inject and em-
power humanism with values. What good sports does for the
modern African should be the opportunity offered to construct
the sports environment for these core human values of self/soul
knowledge, selflessness, community and heroic sacrifice are
blossomed and encouraged to be part of the template of human
and societal development in the millennium. Derived from
human being also the goodness of sport can be divided into
three stages. Today, all over the world, sports has lost its ethical
potency and theistic implications to bring out the ethical values
of the three parts of the soul. Its only the lowest part defined as
appetitive which makes people to compete to gain material
goods through prizes won at competitions and at sporting
events. The second stage of sport corresponds to the second
part of the soul—the emotional soul which constrains competi-
tors to bid for honor, name or glory, leading to increased self
pride and arrogance of individual beings thinking they that are
superior to others. This again cannot help to beauty or evolve
the communal spirit in sports nor lead to heroic sense of self
sacrifice for the community as evidenced in Professor Dukor’s
concept of theistic humanism in African philosophy. In consid-
eration of the three soulful constituents of the human being, the
third part of the soul—the reasonable soul is the best and most
superior since the individual brings out his best in ethical val-
ues and attitudes for the good of others in his community hav-
ing already attained the highest level of defeating his selfish-
ness, ego and weaknesses. He now engages in the competition
with his lower self and defeats it; leading to his blossoming of
selfless and the most beautiful aspects of the soul’s values
which are essentially derivatives from the theistic quotient of
man’s humanism. This level of part of the soul makes it unnec-
essary for man to compete with man, which if it is done, then
the competition will be done in the true spirit of the games or
gamesmanship and sports development. This leads to perfect
harmony of both the mind and the body of man and enhances
the fluid movement of the physical and soulful contents of the
sports person. The content of a good physical education phi-
losophy should such that will reflect these core values as de-
fined under African philosophy and captured the by the theistic
ideals of Professor Dukor. This component and its ideals could
be achieved by everyone who sincerely engages in sports de-
velopment at either the local, state, national regional or global
levels. Sports development leads and flows from sports ideals
and core values. These ideals develop man and society beyond
the ken of the physical body, selfish interests, environment,
space and lead to collective self fulfillment for man and his
society without regard to his/her physical abilities in compari-
son with others. In his classical work Jernej Pisk, (2006), con-
curs and gives the following views concerning the platonic
idealism and its value connotations in sports development:
In Plato’s view, good sport is the sport directed toward the
fulfillment of self, all the way to the ideal—the idea itself.
And only sport like that can bring true contentment to the
human—the reasonable being. With this sport is essen-
tially intervening in the sphere of philosophical cognition.
The goodness of sport is no more determined by physical
dimensions of space and time, but indeed, as Plato shows,
the true good sport goes beyond these borders. In this
manner sport goes beyond the physical world and touches
the everlasting and unchangeable world of ideas. And the
world of ideas is for Plato “tópos” where the very truth
reveals itself. So, sport could be a useful means for the
philosophical investigation of humans and the world.
Physical Education Philosophy—Meaning
and Concept
The idea of physical education is an important part of the to-
tal educational program of any tertiary institution that is con-
cerned with the production of educated graduates with the
strong mind and a healthy body necessary for the building of
good citizenship. The physical education program will provide
students with physical activity opportunities both in and out of
school through a differentiated program that fosters a lifetime
commitment to physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 233
Physical education is an important part of a student’s compre-
hensive, well-rounded education program and a means of posi-
tively impacting life-long health and well-being. Physical edu-
cation will also instill students with the knowledge, skills, and
values to make appropriate physical activity choices to integrate
exercise into their lives. A good physical education curriculum
should reflect a philosophy that delivers quality physical educa-
tion under the instruction and supervision of a highly qualified
physical education teacher. Our physical education program has
the unique opportunity to develop health-related physical fit-
ness and life-time activities that promote physical competence,
cognitive understanding, and attitudes about physical activity
so all students can develop healthy active lifestyles. High qual-
ity physical education enhances the physical, mental, and so-
cial/emotional development of every student and incorporates
fitness education and assessment to help the students under-
stand and improve their physical well-being. Quality physical
education programs provide learning experiences for children
that meet the developmental needs of students which helps
improve their mental alertness, academic performance, readi-
ness to learn and enthusiasm for learning. Fundamentally, phi-
losophy of education conceives physical education as that inte-
gral part of the curriculum that, through human movement,
concentrates on the development of individuals’ maximum
physical potential and their related social, emotional, and ethi-
cal intellectual growth. The discipline’s primary purpose is to
assist the learner in developing:
1) Total physical fitness and lasting desire to maintain it;
2) Movement abilities ranging from functional life skills
to those needed for successful participation in leisure ac-
tivities of their choice;
3) A sense of self-worth and dignity;
4) Social competencies;
5) Safety awareness; and
6) An appreciation and understanding of specific sports
and dances, including their origins, cultural impact and
aesthetic values.
In this context, we could say that the truly physically edu-
cated student will have acquired both competencies applicable
to any lifetime activities and a desire to retain the healthy feel-
ing associated with fitness and exercise. One could conjecture
with all amount of philosophical wisdom that any person in life
goes through the course of physical education in any higher
institution should have the opportunity to participate in sports
either as a coach, facilitator, teacher or athlete and reflect the
core ethical values a s defined by Plato and Dukor as core val-
ues in sports. Moreover, the graduate, according to the essential
guides of physical education (2012) should outside the ethical
also have the life opportunity to:
Demonstrate motor skills and movement patterns to per-
form a variety of physical activities; understand move-
ment concepts, principles and tactics as they apply to the
learning and performance of physical activities; utilize
appropriate motor skills, tactics and movement concepts/
principles while participate regularly in physical activity;
achieve and maintain a health enhancing level of physical
fitness; demonstrate responsible personal and social be-
havior in physical ac tivity settin gs.
Seen from another dimension, physical education is defined
in the Wikipedia (2012) with a more complete morphological
and epistemic depth that helps the learner to acquire mental,
ethical and physical skills:
Physical education (often abbreviated Phys. Ed. Or P.E.)
or gymnastics (gymor gym class) is a course … that en-
courages psychomotor learning in a play or movement
exploration setting. [Physical education trends have de-
veloped recently to incorporate a greater variety of activi-
ties. Introducing students to activities like bowling, walk-
ing/hiking, or Frisbee at an early age can help students
develop good activity habits that will carry over into
adulthood.] Some teachers have even begun to incorporate
stress-reduction techniques such as yoga and deep-
breathing. Teaching non-traditional sports to students may
also provide the necessary motivation for students to in-
crease their activity, and can help students learn about
different cultures. For example, while teaching a unit
about lacrosse (in, say, Arizona, USA), students can also
learn a little bit about the Native American cultures of the
Northeast and Eastern Canada, where lacrosse originated.
Teaching non-traditional (or non-native) sports provides a
great opportunity to integrate academic concepts from
other subjects as well (social studies from the example
above), which may now be required of many P.E. teachers.
The four aspects of P.E. are physical, mental, social, and
emotional. This push towards health education is begin-
ning in the intermediate level, including lessons on bully-
ing, self esteem and stress and anger management.
Understanding Philosophy of Sports
Philosophy of Sport is an introduction to the discipline of
philosophy by way of questions that arise in the context of
sports. In other words, the questions we pose, assists the en-
quirer to move towards philosophical questions by working
through more practical questions that we ask ourselves in the
context of sports. These questions also border on the ethical
issues that relate to sports development. Professor Blattner1
agrees and elaborates further on the nature of this concept that
will give us a clearer understanding of the philosophy of sports:
For example, what (if anything) is wrong with using per-
formance enhancing drugs? Is it cheating? What is it to
cheat? And what’s wrong with cheating anyhow? Is it
dangerous? Many sports are dangerous, some can even be
life-threatening. So, what’s wrong with something’s being
dangerous? And even if it is dangerous, does that give
anyone aside from the athlete him- or herself the right to
stop the athlete from using PED’s? Is it unnatural? What
does “natural” mean in the context of human beings? Lots
of things we do are “unnatural” in some sense. Hi-tech
sports equipment is “unnatural” in some sense. Another
example: what’s the difference between an amateur and a
professional, and why does this distinction matter? Do
amateurs play for “love of the game,” while professionals
earn money? Can’t someone who earns money, even lots
of money, playing a professional sport also or even pri-
marily play for love of the game? Should collegiate ath-
1Professor William Blattner (1998). In his fall 2012 course syllabus gives
the following definition of the philosophy of sports: Philosophy of Sport
Philosophy 98, this course will be offered during the fall semester, 2012.
Mosley Phy s ical Education, Health and Sports and Department 2010-2011.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
letes be paid? Are big time collegiate athletes exploited by
their institutions or by the television networks? Do the
pressures of professional or collegiate athletics place an
alienating barrier between the athlete and his or her sport?
Between the athlete and his or her education? We all de-
bate questions like these, and when we do we often hit
barriers to our understanding. Those barriers are philoso-
phical: What are the ethics of competition and games?
May anyone dictate to an adult what he or she does to or
with his or her own body? What is the distinction between
the natural and the artificial? What is exploitation? What
is alienation? These are all philosophical questions, and
we will examine them through a range of literature, in-
cluding contemporary contributions to the growing dis-
cussion of the philosophy sport and classical contributions
by the great philosophers of the past (incl. Kant, Mill,
Marx, and others).
Plato on Good Sports and Values—An
Ethical Challenge
An examination of the platonic concept of sports will be
treated from the perspectives of his concept, the human soul
and modes of sports, how sports intervened into the sphere of
philosophy and, finally, Plato’s philosophy and the study of
sports. Our treatment of this segment of the research will be
drawn from the write ups of Jernej Pisk (2005).What is good
sport: Plato’s view and that of (2010) entitled “Ethics in sports-
the role of cardinal virtues in sports” with elaborations and
insights which he has published that threw much insight into
the relationship between sports, education, philosophy, ethics,
human values and virtues as a multidisciplinary enterprise that
draws up the resources of man’s soul, mind, spirit, body and
environment. This should be the focus of our discussion in the
Plato’s Concept of Sports
On this issue, Pisk (2005) writes about the Grecian concept
of culture as the environment that gave rise to sports and related
activity such as music and entertainment, giving along the line
the platonic concept of sports:
For the Greeks sport was a sign of their culture and some-
thing inherent. Therefore also Plato could not avoid sport.
Gymnastics and music are for him two of the oldest parts
of culture. Plato found the mission of his life in political
activityin education. So he touched sport many times in
his dialogs and exposed its role in the education of young
people. All education is directed to the development of
virtue. The value of sport is above all in development of
the virtue of fortitude. This is not surprising if we recall
that Greeks before Plato had understood sport as agon,
that is competition for glory and honor where at the same
time also courage has to be demonstrated. Plato took over
this understanding of sport; he deepened it and included it
in his educational system. Plato likewise uses examples
from sport in his dialogs many times to illustrate different
truths from everyday life. He compares true philosophy
with gymnastics in opposition to sophistry which is like
cosmetics. All Departments of educational development is
designed to make a solid ground in young people based
on which they can enter the world of philosophy. Educa-
tion through gymnastics and music in childhood was di-
rected to make some customs regarding justice we will
see, different modes of sport correspond to different
stages of the human soul, we should first take a look at
that division.
The Human Soul and Modes of Sports
In attempting to capture the Platonic idea of the good sports,
Piski draws a fine distinction between the state, the soul and
relates each segment of the soul to an attribute or virtue of the
human being, bringing out the sporting implications:
Beside the doctrine of forms Plato is also well known for
teaching the doctrine of the state and the human soul. The
ideal state and the human soul have a very similar con-
struction. The soul is just like a small state. Plato divides
the state into three different classes: the lowest is the
economic class, second is the military class and the third,
the highest and the most noble is the governing class of
philosophers. Every one of these classes has its own vir-
tue. And those virtues are presented also in different parts
of the soul: in appetite, emotion and reason. So, to the
lowest part of the soul and to the lowest class in the state
belongs the virtue of temperance. To the second part of
the soul and to the second class of the state belongs the
virtue of fortitude. And to the highest part of the soul and
the highest class of the state belongs the virtue of wisdom.
As we already have seen for Plato sport has value because
it helps to develop the virtue of fortitude in the human
soul and in the state. In both cases sport is a means of
education in the second of the three stages, because it is
connected with the second, emotional part of the soul and
with the second military class in the state. So sport, as
Plato had shown us, does not extend directly to the third
or first part of the soul neither to the third or first class of
the state. However, some modes of sport which are com-
mon today correspond to Plato’s division of the state and
the human soul. This can, at the same time, show us that
sport is tightly connected with human being. In Plato’s
teaching the human is his/her soul. Different values of
different parts of the soul can then reveal to us also dif-
ferent values of sport, because every mode of sport is
founded on a different part of the soul. To three parts of
the soul also three different pleasures are connected: “Be-
cause there are three parts of the soulappetite, emo-
tional and reasonable, there are also three different pleas-
ures: pleasures connected with material things and riches
(belonging to the appetite soul), pleasures connected with
honor and victory (belonging to the emotional soul) and
pleasures of cognition of reason”.
From the Plato’s reasoning the idea of conjoining sports de-
velopment and the functions of the three aspects of the human
soul is the surest way the best possible sport can be achieved.
Sport like this presents human beings with the possibility of
achieving the perfection of all of their potentials. This is what
he calls the reasonable exercise of sports philosophy as physical
education. Physical education should graduate teachers and
students armed with the best ethical values that will result in
reasonable sports activities through cognition. In the activities
and cognition that are in accordance with reason the highest
fulfillment, the true contentment of the humanthe reasonable
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 235
being can be found. With this sport essentially intervenes in the
sphere of philosophical cognitionthe sphere of searching and
cognition of wisdom and knowledge; cognition of self and self-
borders. At this point the question can rise if division of sport
into three stages of goodness is not only a human construct
which has no connection with reality? The answer based on
Plato’s philosophy is no. Because there is no sport in the
physical world without humans; sport can become factual only
through human beings and a human being is for Plato as much
as a human soul, therefore it is evident that a human soul has
direct influence on sport. So this division of goodness of sport
is based on the fact of reality of the human being as Plato had
understood. Besides this, this kind of division of sport is also
adjusted to generally accepted values of different modes of
sport, e.g. educational sport, recreational sport and professional
Intervening of Sports into the Sphere of Philosophy
As we can deduce from the platonic view of sports given
above, sports and philosophy enjoy a paternal and dialectical
relationship which started at the beginning of Greek philosophy.
Thus Piski agrees that sports extends naturally into the domain
of the philosophical enterprise. Why Plato chose only the third
part of the soul as the best entry point for philosophical foray
into sports development is another source of speculation for
philosophers such as Piski who gives the following perspec-
But why is the sport of the third part of the soul the best in
doing this? Sport like this is similar to philosophy because
they both use the same highest human capabilityreason.
Sport of this kind can lead humans to philosophical cog-
nition of themselves. Through sport like this the human
being is most revealed. Revelation of truth with reason
leads to the highest human happiness, as Plato said. To
show that philosophical cognition is of the highest value
and the source of highest happiness Plato used an example
from sport: “He (an athlete) only gives you the appear-
ance of happiness, and I give you the reality.” But now it
is clear that also sport can be a means of philosophical
cognition of truth and the source of true happiness. Just
like the rulers in a state also sport of the third stage inter-
venes into the sphere of philosophy, because it has its ori-
gin in the reasonable part of the soul. By using the mind
(intellect), sport extends over the physical world and
touches the everlasting and unchangeable world of forms.
And the world of forms is for Plato topos where the very
truth is being revealed.
Plato’s Philos oph y and the Study of Spor ts
Finally we come to the study of Plato and his works in the
study of sports. We can effectively argue that although in his
works, ‘Plato mentioned sport quite often and integrated it into
his educational system he never asked the fundamental phi-
losophical question; a question which he often asked his co-
speakers in dialogs and with which he brought them to the cog-
nition of their ignorance; the question “What is something?” So:
What is sport? There is no doubt that he would also bring us to
the cognition of our ignorance’. In seeking to conquer this hu-
man ignorance, Piski concedes that the Plato’s critical enquiry
helps us to acquire new understanding and that ‘this cognition
allows us to start walking on the path of philosophy. For in-
stance, it is necessary firstly to know a human individual to get
to know how he or she can become better. “Can we ever know
what art makes us better, if we do not know what we are our-
selves?” Or: “Should we ever have known what art makes a
shoe better, if we did not know a shoe? Impossible! Only good
knowledge of a thing allows us to be good in handling it. This
is true for shoes and alsobecause of our complexity even
more sofor human beings and, last, but not least, also for
sport. So, when we have long discussions about sport, we
should first answer Plato’s question of what something is, what
is sport? Plato’s intention is not to destroy something, but to
build on a solid ground of truth itself. If we interpret Plato’s
philosophy in that way, as stimulation for philosophy, it still is
of great value.’ In the following arguments made below, Piski
continues to elaborate and to draw out finer distinctions that
define the difference between the materialism of present day
sports in which money, honor and laurels are the only things
fought for with the spiritual idealism of true sportsmanship,
gamesmanship and participation. In current times when wisdom
is a “mass phenomenon” and whento oppose true wisdom
one “wisdom” is contrary to another, this need for searching for
real wisdom is even bigger. Plato found the value of sport in the
second part of the soul. This part of the soul owns fortitude and
seeks fulfilment in pleasures of honor and victory. In this we
can find the elementary ancient agon and the origins of sport in
ancient Greece. As we know at first the only prize for victory
was a wreath and honour. But later material prizes became
more and more important. From this it is clear that when sport
lost its sources in agon (based in the second part of the soul)
and got its motive and fulfilment from material prizes, it was
degraded to the lower and worse pleasures of appetite soul.
This materialization of sports and competition does harm to the
noble concept of sports philosophy, and, as noted below by
Plato, humiliates and negates the true essence of sports:
The fact that this became the main reason for sport repre-
sentsfrom the philosophical point of viewa step back.
Sport in which money and material prizes are in the first
place (sport in the service of money and not money in the
service of sport) is in Plato’s eyes degraded and the worst
possible sport because in it there is no place for philoso-
phy, for love for wisdom, cognition of the soul, etc. Sport
like this is humiliated sport if we compare it with the sport
for honour and glory, because it fulfils only the lowest
(appetite) part of the soul while the emotional and rea-
sonable part of the soul which are the special properties of
humans remain unfulfilled. If sport which is based on the
appetite part of the soul and seeks its fulfillment in getting
material prizes is the worst, then sport which extends to
the third part of the soul is the best. This sport is superior
because it corresponds to the reasonable human soul and
is connected with pleasures of cognition. But, where we
can find sport like this? If we can find the first kind of
sport where material prizes are involved and the second
where honor and glory can be reached, then we can search
for the third kind of sport only outside “sport for money”
or “sport for glory”. Both, money and glory, do not origi-
nate in the human but come from the outside and do not
depend on the particular human. As Aristotle found out
glory is independent of him because only another human
can give honor to the first one.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
The concern of good sports should be the wellbeing of the
soul, in the first place, and the happiness and harmony of the
body in relation with the values identified with the soul. So we
must search for the third kind of sport in tight connection with
humans themselves. And this is in the first place competition
with the self. The aim for this can be to attain perfect execution
of a movement or exercise that can be only achieved with tight
cooperation with reason. We can say that it is the highest union
between body and soul, the full harmony of body with the in-
structions that flow with moral values that seek to establish the
good of all members of the community and not the selfish in-
terests of wining alone by individuals. These where the Platonic
concept of sports philosophy finds philosophical resonance
with Professor Dukor’s African philosophy and communal
values. To the exposition of that dialectical nexus between
Plato and Dukor, we must turn our critical mind to and bring
out its finer implications for the philosophy of sports and
physical education.
Dukor, African Philosophy on Soul, Body and
Communal Values—Compliment to Good
Sporting and Physical Well-Being
In the first place the materialism and idealism of sports and
competitions have been used by both Plato and Dukor to do an
abiding critique of the abuse of modern day sports as concept
and analogy for building the well being of both individuals and
the society at large. The Dukorian concept of idealism (2010:
pp. 1-3) matches and compares effectively with the Platonic
ideas and idealism that define good sports and what should
define the content and framework of the good sports person in
African philosophy and tourism. Elaborating upon the distinc-
tion between “idealism and materialism” Professor Dukor
writes (2010: pp. 6-9):
For proper understanding of the metaphysical doctrine
known as idealism, it would be of utmost advantage to look at
the meaning of the word “idea” for better understanding of the
doctrine. The word idea is a transliteration of a Greek word of
which the root meaning is “see”. Plato writes ofa person as
being “very beautiful in idea” meaning “beautiful in visual
aspect”. In Plato’s philosophy, the idea or forms are always
spoken of as: the objects of intelligence, in contrast with the
objects of perception, which are in a state of becoming; eternal
in contrast with perishable world of change … One of the most
important and early modifications of this Platonic view is the
religious conception of thee ideas as the thoughts of God. Ide-
alsim is therefore a metaphysical doctrine that reality is intelli-
gible or that reality is mental, that what is real is of immaterial
The ideals that fire a man’s thinking and actions in any area
of life such as sports also emanate from his mind and the ra-
tional exercise of his rational soul. For Dukor, the mind, soul
and the thinking structure of the African are the eternal source
his theistic behavior and his social attitudes toward his fellows
in the African society. Dukor draws out the finer relations be-
tween a man’s mind, reason, thinking, happiness and the at-
tainment of wisdom:
A man’s way of thinking, his attitude, beliefs and opinion
constitute a philosophy (Dukor, 2010). Our happiness,
peace of mind and style of thinking or the philosophy of
life, in general sense, when we speak of a man’s philoso-
phy, we simply mean the sum of his beliefs. His belief
guides his thinking and actions about life. In contrasts to
philosophy as personal ideas, beliefs and views about the
world, philosophy as a preoccupation is a specialized
quest for knowledge which in Platonic or African tradi-
tional thinking is called wisdom. A wise man in this sense
has a clear understanding of the distinction between real-
ity and its appearances. Man is not like other animals. He
is a rational being and lives in the organized life of the so-
The rational being of Plato is much akin to the wise man who
has acquired communal values that help him to relate very well
with his fellows in the society. The wise man in Plato’s sport-
ing idealism has acquired the four selfless ethical virtues and
values just as the ideal African sports person of Professor Du-
kor is a wise man who has not only acquired the four values,
but has also suffused with the core African values and virtues
that emanate from his regular and sporting cultivation of theis-
tic humanism as life’s philosophy. To understand the African
athlete and his sporting attitudes is to examine the framework
and content of this theistic humanism as a basic African phi-
losophy. This philosophy makes the African athlete to be wise,
prudent, disciplined and philosophical in his approach to sports
development or participation or engagement. For him wining is
not everything but self conquest to achieve the communal sac-
rifice for others in the sporting arena of life is the fundamental
goal. The theistic humanistic values that emanate in the field of
sports help the African athlete to be rational and communal in
his thinking and attitudes towards others in the sporting arena;
he shows that his soul, mind and body are in harmony in con-
sideration of his fundamental African belief that all of parts of
his being are united and harmonized and that his soulful and
spiritual beliefs inform his values and sporting ideals. Therefore
Professor Dukor, in his African philosophy and theistic human-
ism of soul, body and communal values constitute fundamental
compliments to good sporting and physical well- being of the
African athlete and helps the graduate of physical education
and philosophy of sports to be balance, disciplined and stoical
in management the dynamics, pains, gains, losses or victories
of sports engagements and activities in an part of the globe.
Defining an African Value based
Philosophy of Sports
In his work on “ethics in sports-the role of cardinal virtues in
sports, Jernej Pisk Redefines the platonic approach to sports
development and identifies the four virtues of justice, prudence
(wisdom), courage (fortitude), and temperance (moderation,
self-control). But when Plato was asked the question why he
emphasized only the four he said that these four virtues repre-
sent the whole of virtues (Republic, 428a). According to “Pisk
analysis (2010)” these virtues are evidently connected with
Plato’s construction of human soul. But these four cardinal
virtues are not the only virtues, neither in Plato’s philosophy,
but they are the “hinges”, on which all the other virtues turn.
They are the necessary foundation and prerequisite for all the
others. So, which role can be ascribed to cardinal virtues in
sport? Jernej Pisk throws more insight into the value and virtue
connection to sports development:
In the last decades virtue ethics in sport has gained much
attention. This is not surprising because it seems that
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 237
some characteristics of this ethical theory successfully re-
spond to very complex situations in sport. The experience
shows that merely rules of particular sport do not assure
moral sport actions. Already Plato has pointed out that
there are two guides of moral actions: laws (or rules) di-
recting us from outside and virtues directing us from in-
side. He was convinced that virtues are better than laws,
since it does not make any sense to promulgate laws
among non-virtues persons, because they will disregard
them. On the other hand the virtues people are able to find
out what is good and what is not regardless of laws.
Therefore, it is important to become a good person, since
only then also laws or rules make sense. Plato exposes
four main virtues: justice, prudence (wisdom), courage
(fortitude), and temperance (moderation, self-control).
They are the necessary foundation and prerequisite for all
the others. So, which role can be ascribed to cardinal vir-
tues in sport? For Plato the first and the most important is
virtue of justice. It seems that it is also preferential in
sport, especially when we think about sport competitions.
But, as emphasized the medieval philosophy the source of
justice and other virtues is reason. Reason is the essence
of human nature and of all moral acts. Therefore to act in
accordance with reasonto have the virtue of prudence is
the first demand. While prudence refers to individual
alone, justice refers to others. Every sport competition,
contest, is therefore the field of virtue of justice. The basis
of justice is to give everyone his due. Justice put us in a
position of a debtor to a fellow-man. This requires that we
play fair and honorable. Therefore donated victory is not
righteous because it is not owed. Besides that, virtue of
justice arranges matters between the individuals and be-
tween the individual and community which has a great
impact on morality in sport.
This deep and conceptual analysis by Jernej Pisk has given
and furnished us with the vital key fundamental insights into
the areas African philosophy that could definitely contribute to
the building of a value based philosophy of sports, physical
education and general sports development as advanced by the
two critical theories of Plato and that of Professor Maduabuchi
Dukor in theistic humanism of African philosophy and values.
In African philosophy, most contemporary thinkers had been
influenced by the four seminal contributions of Professor
Maduabuchi Dukor that emanated principally from his concept
of theistic humanism and its processional and philosophical
core human values. On the other hand, in general classical phi-
losophy, many contemporary thinkers and philosophers are
returning to Plato and his thought. Actually his relevance has
been much clarified by the thoughts of Pisk (2010) who thinks
Their understanding of Plato often becomes the central
and most influential point of their thought. Actually stud-
ies of Greek philosophy do not have meaning only in
themselves, but also as much as they touch us in our pre-
sent time and situation. Therefore also our investigation of
Plato’s philosophy concerns us as much as it touches our
situation and contemporary sport. We can repeat after
Jaeger: “We started out with Plato to find a state. Instead,
we have found a man” (Jaeger, 1973: p. 354). Or para-
phrased: We start to closely examine a man and we found
out which kind of sport is good. At this point Plato warns
us that the true value and goodness of sport is not deter-
mined by the physical dimensions of space and time. The
seconds and meters are no more important because true
good sport goes beyond these borders since for true good
sport the cognition and improvement of self are the most
important and even essential. And these are not reserved
for just a few top-level individuals but everyone is capa-
ble of attaining them. Therefore this has a much bigger,
even universal value. Also professional sportsport for
money and for glory gets its value only when it is harmo-
nized with the reasonable part. To nominate reasonable
sport as the leader (manager) of other sports is like nomi-
nating the absolute and divinity for the first measure. So,
Plato’s final suggestion could be to try to build a state
within us which only can lead to happiness of people as
Much of African philosophy has shifted from the debate
about its existence or non-existence to that of organized crea-
tive deconstruction, construction and reconstruction of basic
tenets of the canons of African philosophy and its different
departments. African philosophy of sports should be defined
and established as a growing discipline embedded with African
values that could help African athletes, philosophers of sports
and physical education to integrate the functional pillars of
theistic humanism as foundations of defining what constitutes
the good sports, who is a good sporting person and what should
be a fair rule that regulate good sporting activity or what should
constitute a good sporting attitude as conceived from the phi-
losophical foundations of virtue and value by both Plato and
Professor Dukor Maduabuchi. These two seminal sources
should help us to establish an authentic African philosophy of
sports and physical education curriculum in tertiary institutions
in the Continent or outside. Thus it is only when, according to
Reid (2002), we play or participate in sports in the most com-
plete manner that we find fulfillment: “Only when we play a
sport in the most complete manner possible we find fulfilment
as athletes”. But Piski (2010) complements the social and com-
munal spirit further as the basis of self fulfillment in the com-
munity of human relationships that make sporting activity a
theistic and transcendental activity necessary for man’s sus-
tainable livihood in the new millenium:
Only if we work-always keeping in mind our own voca-
tion, our own objectiveswe find fulfillment as human
beings. The achievement of the expected sporting aims
and earnings must be supported by a reassessment of the
vision of the athlete: from a social point of viewas an
individual placed in a system of relationsand from a
transcendent point of viewas a person.
The whole idea of reconstructing African philosophy in a
manner that gives the discipline greater credibility and legiti-
macy from the point of view of Professor Dukor’s theistic hu-
manism is to evolve an abiding culture of humane and civilized
communal values that will form the basis of establishing the
wellbeing of the African person and building a better society
filled with valuable human relationships. In that sense Plato and
Dukor are philosophically soul brothers in seeking to redefine
the concept of philosophy of sports and physical education
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 239
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