|“Sport as MacIntyrean ‘Practice’: Understanding the Essential Internal Goods of Athletics”
by Michael O'Neill
, Providence College
In this presentation, I explore the implications for sport of MacIntyre’s idea of ‘practice’. In After Virtue, MacIntyre defines practice as, “any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions of the ends and goods involved, are systematically extended.” (AV, 186) The nature of the practice pursued determines the kind of virtue and “internal good” the practice will produce. While all sports will show similarities in that they belong to a class of practice, specific sports will deliver specific and distinct internal goods. The presentation will include discussion of examples from contemporary sports to elucidate MacIntyre’s definition.
Conclusions: Distinguishing the internal goods produced by sport from their external goods clarifies the harm caused by cheating. It shows that cheating undermines the nature of the practice, is counter to its end and purpose and short circuits the delivery of the internal goods.
Understanding sport as a ‘practice’ revitalizes the distinction between professional and amateur sports: Professional sports understood as entertainment and marketing emphasizes the external goods provided by sport (wealth, fame, etc.); Amateur sports are heuristic and emphasize the internal goods provided by sport.
Applying the idea of a ‘practice’ to sport reveals interesting consequences for physical education. Educators could select and assign sport to students as a way of inculcating and testing for certain virtues.