The role of skill in sport

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Breivik, Gunnar (2016)

Skill is obviously a central part of sports and should therefore be central in sport philosophic studies. My aim in this paper is to try to place skill in a wider context and thus give skill the place it deserves. I will do this by taking up four points. I first try to place the concept of skill in relation to concepts like ability and know how. I argue that ability is something one has as part of a natural endowment, but skill is something one must acquire. ‘Knowing how’ seems to a greater extent to demand a cognitive grasp and is thus more than a skill. My second point is about development of skills toward expertise and the role of thinking and consciousness. When one is exercising a skill does one need to be conscious of what one is doing or can one act like a zombie and perform non-consciously? I argue that expertise demands know how and conscious thinking. My third point is about the role of skills in sport competitions. What we measure in sports are different sporting skills as they are displayed by and through the body. This does not mean that other factors, like motivation, courage, or strategic thinking are not involved. But what we see and what we measure when the sprinter crosses the goal line is not the courage but the skillful body. My fourth point is about skills and normativity. Should sports, and consequently sporting skills, promote ethical and esthetical values? A neutral view would imply that we can accept and admire the skill part of diving in football even if the purpose is bad. A normative view would imply that skill and purpose are intertwined. I here argue that diving skill is diving-specific and thus not morally neutral. Seksjon for kultur og samfunn / Department of Cultural and Social Studies
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