Sport and performance ethics in Helmuth Plessner


  • Oreste Tolone



Plessner, sport, play, performance ethics, Weltoffenheit, eccentricity


Plessner’s interest in sport and play has anthropological roots. In the wake of Buytendijk, he identifies the ambivalence between the impulse towards constraint and autonomy, which characterises the playful attitude towards the world. This ambivalence is based on the relative closure to the world, on the intertwining of Weltgebundenheit and Weltoffenheit. This “relative closure” is characteristic of an eccentric being, who on the one hand has sunk into a body and on the other hand instrumentally distances himself from it. Sport, which is also etymologically rooted in play, is a symptom of an industrialised society with a disturbed relationship to the body. In fact, it guarantees bodily unity, moving dialectically between the tendency towards records and respect for rules. Today, this balance is at risk because of a tendency towards record-breaking, which is intrinsic to the ethos of sporting performance. The recovery of the passive dimension, of the bond as a link, which is proper to the game, and the parameter of health, can be a corrective, proper to the person.