Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ends in themselves

I'm enjoying watching the Olympics, particularly the sports that don't get so much TV time otherwise.  (Why bother watching Olympic football when you can get into the judo?)  And I think there's something rather admirable about these people who have dedicated a great deal of time and effort to doing their best at these various sports.  True, I don't think I personally would find a great deal of satisfaction in hour after hour of weight training in preparation for 22 seconds of a 50m freestyle swim.  And true, some of these people have been using a relatively large amount of state subsidy (though less than many other countries, I suspect) in order to come relatively low down the eventual list in the Olympic competition.

But good for them all the same.  I reckon few people share my personal priorities and might (indeed do) occasionally object to state funding of someone to spend a large proportion of time researching ancient philosophy.  'What good is that?', a hard-nosed (hard-headed?) politician might ask.  No more and no less good, I suspect, than someone being given assistance by the state to try to be the best they can be at, say, diving.  Perhaps it will inspire some more people to take up sport.  No doubt it will entertain and excite a few people this summer.  Both good things.

There are doubtless limits to the kinds of ends to which people might dedicate themselves and the pursuit of which they take to be constituent of a good and fulfilled life which the state might be obliged to fund.  (There certainly are limits to the kinds of ends which some people take to be constituent of a good life which we ought as a society to agree even to tolerate, let alone promote.)  On the other hand, I think we should recognise a plurality of things people might take to be ends in themselves and worth pursuing.  (Winning, at least attempting to win is clearly part of the goal of athletic competition, but is surely not all there is to it, so just becauce people might lose we ought not to discount this as a reasonably attainable goal.)  So, softie that I am, despite the evident professionalism (which seems to me to be a curious thing to object to...), commercialism (which is probably instrumentally necessary these days to some extent at least), and nationalistic posturing, I think these sorts of sporting events are overall a good thing.  That's why I find something admirable in the focus and drive of these people.  It doesn't matter that I don't share their priorities; I'm pretty sure they don't share mine.  Yet I am prepared to think that their choice is neither crazy and nor overly damaging to others' choices.  I hope they would think the same about mine.

And I am genuinely excited about London 2012...  Provided we don't cock it up, of course.  Not sure what I'll go and watch, though.  Rowing, perhaps...

1 comment:

emilio neoteros said...

Dear sir, that's very interesting - and it represents an evolution from the old olympic critics by Solon. So, convivence is possible!