What does it mean to be authentic in sport? The idea of authenticity has been central to many existential philosophers, but it has been also highly contested and debated. Dr Emily Ryall shared her take on the notion of authenticity in sport in the Meaningful Sport podcast and the implications it has for the organisation of sport.
Our discussion was based on Emily’s article Being-on-the-bench: An existential analysis of the substitute in sport, published in Sport, Ethics and Philosophy. In the podcast, she shared that the ‘inspiration’ for the article derives from her own frustrations of finding herself sitting on the bench. She reflects that sitting on the bench seems antithetical to your aim, that is, to play the sport. Yet, drawing on Sartre, she argues that:
“The Existentialist position is that our situation is always inexorably one that is freely chosen. To argue that one has not freely chosen one’s position is to be ‘inauthentic’” (Ryall, 2008, p. 56).
The substitute, therefore, falls into a paradoxical position: to argue you have not chosen to sit on the bench is inauthentic; and yet, how can we imagine someone would choose to sit on the bench, rather than play the game?
To find out how Emily helps us get through this dilemma, you need to either listen to the episode or read Emily’s article.
In the podcast, we also discussed different types of threats to authenticity that are prevalent to team and individual sports. And you will also hear about the exciting projects that Emily is working on, and her thoughts on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on (especially women’s) sports.
Dr Emily Ryall is a reader in Applied Philosophy at the University of Gloucestershire who enjoys wrestling with the deep and complex questions about the role of sport in human life. She has written on a range of philosophical and ethical questions in sport and enjoys teaching in relation to these issues as well as philosophy of science, critical thinking and the logic of arguments.