In modern day we see significantly less of this, the lines between morals and personal virtues are blurred and seem less important to everyday life. Lessons can be learned from the Greeks and their standards or moral character, these sets of values would be especially important in the world of modern sport where cheating and scandal is seen almost as much as the competitions themselves. This paper seeks to outline the traditions of what morality was in ancient Greece and to discuss how these virtues are seen or not seen in modern sport.
To fully understand what it meant to be a moral Greek one has to examine the works of the three main philosophers of the period. Though Socrates taught Plato and Plato taught Aristotle the three all contributed to raising the AR of what moral standards were, and what they should mean for a person or a society. Notably, Socrates was the first philosopher to really examine what morals and personal virtues were. He believed that if knowledge can be learned and taught, so could personal virtue which is why he sought out to teach his principles to the youth of Athens.
Socrates believed that one must concentrate more on self-development than on material things. He encouraged people to develop friendships and love amongst themselves. Humans possess certain basic philosophical or intellectual virtues and those virtues were the most valuable of all possessions. To act Good and to be truly Good from within is different and virtue relates to the Goodness of the soul. (“People; Socrates,”) One can easily see how Socrates can be credited as the forefather Of ethics. Socrates had the opportunity to escape his death sentence but his morals prevented him from doing so, making him a virtuous man until the very end.
Plato came up with the idea of the “Cardinal Virtues”, his four cardinal virtues consisted of wisdom, justice, prudence and courage which he believed must be present in a person to live a virtuous life. “Following the lead of his teacher Socrates, he [Plato] seems to be convinced hat moral progress, in his own words ‘the care for one’s soul’, has to being with liberation from error’ (Newbie, 2). Plat’s idea of a virtuous life was important because it set a standard for each person to follow or at least something to achieve. Later came Aristotle, who studied under Plato until Plat’s death.
Aristotle is seen as the voice of ethics because he was the philosopher to finally give a name to the field of study which had been passed down to him through Plato and Socrates. His main focus was on developing a moral character based on the idea of the cardinal virtues. Aristotle search or the good is a search for the highest good, and he assumes that the highest good, whatever it turns out to be, has three characteristics: it is desirable for itself, it is not desirable for the sake of some other good, and all other goods are desirable for its sake. Karat, 2001 ) Aristotle beliefs and search for ‘the good’ brought him to realize that everyone has the capacity to develop sound, ethical virtues but that not everyone would achieve the Status of being a virtuous soul. Aristotle also thought to achieve ‘the good’ or ‘excellence’ that one must be living well for the sake of it, maintaining their lath and wellness, enough money to live honorably but if a person is making that money or maintaining their health in a way that doesn’t promote well-being, it’s not morally correct. Upon looking at the views and ideas of the three philosophers who really developed what today is called ethics and moral reasoning it is clear to see the chain of thought. A person must make good choices, be courageous in the face of conflict, patient when it is required of them and most of all fair. The cardinal virtues should apply to every person, male or female, athlete or judge, child or adult. However in the modern world virtues seem to matter less and less to individuals, the lines between what is fair and what is considered wrong are becoming blurred. In the world of sports fairness should matter above all else.
Every athlete should be given the same opportunities, and be expected to uphold a certain standard of moral character. Its expected that an Olympic athlete shouldn’t be taking performance enhancing drugs to gain an advantage over the competition, it’s common sense that referees should hold no bias towards a certain team, but then again, the virtuous man outlined in Greek philosophy isn’t present today and so what can really be expected in terms of fairness in sports now? To fully understand what can be considered cheating in sport one must first look at the definition of cheating.
Google defines cheating as; ‘acting dishonestly or unfairly to gain advantage’, or ‘to deceive or trick’. Well, in sport cheating can mean a number of things, from lying about age/gender, faking an injury, using illegal equipment, taking drugs, paying referees, assaulting other athletes, gambling, the list is practically endless. With all these ways to cheat how can athletes stay honest? To emphasize and understand the reality behind cheating this paper is going to take a look at an instance of doping in sport, what makes a morally virtuous coach, and achieving excellence through sport.
Canada has a history of not doing so well at the Summer Olympic games, our forte is in the winter sports, so when Canada produced a sprinter who was breaking all kinds of records the world became a little suspicious. Ben Johnson used to be a household name, winning two bronze and one gold Olympic medal he was a national treasure so to speak, that was until he tested positive for steroids. Some may wonder what would cause a high level athlete to take performance enhancing drugs, but in a world where it’s getting more and more difficult to test for certain enhancers it’s becoming more popular for athletes to take them and get by unnoticed.
Ben Johnson was doing what he loved, running and making his country proud, at first unknowingly ingesting steroids that his coach was giving him. At that point Johnson Was morally and ethically just by Aristotle standards, however when Johnson later tested positive a second and third time for enhancers it was no one’s doing but his own. “If a person is morally responsible for an action, this s a necessary and sufficient condition for moral appraisal of that person for this action. For instance, if the action is morally wrong, moral blame is in order. (Bernhard, 2009). Brassard writing leads one to believe that Johnson was sufficiently punished, through public humiliation he should have seen the utilitarianism of the situation and realized that he was suffering the consequences of his actions. However Johnny’s morals are severely lacking, he once said that “you only cheat if no one else is doing it” which is the farthest possible thing from fairness that an athlete could exhibit. It doesn’t sake an ancient Greek philosopher to read Johnny’s story and see where he’s gone wrong with the cardinal virtues.
Despite not being a fair man, Johnson exhibited extreme courage by doing everything he could to remain in the public eye, doing commercials after the drug scandal and just recently participating in an anti-doping campaign called #Straightjacket’s which involved his return to the Seoul Olympic stadium where he ran the infamous mom sprint. His courage isn’t necessarily a good thing though because it borders on the line of cockiness. Can what Johnson did be seen as such a surprise though?
The answer is up o the interpretation of the individual, but with so many cases of cheating in sport – and so many ways to do it – what can really be considered cheating is becoming ambiguous. “One can, he [Propagators] insists, possess one of the virtues without having the others, and there are human beings who are brave but unjust, others who are just but not wise. ” (Bernhard, 2009). A coach should possess each of the cardinal virtues. A coach must be wise in the way that he/she should possesses extensive knowledge on the sport they are teaching.
A coach must be fair in the sense that they need to acknowledge the rules of sport and encourage their athletes to practice to fair play. A coach must be patient in order to work with athletes of every skill level, understanding that each individual learns at a different pace or in a different way. Finally a coach should be courageous because not only are coaches leaders, they re role models for everyone they teach, and demonstrating courage could mean anything from standing up to a parent who is mistreating their child to getting the soccer ball out of the tree so the game can continue.
However not all of those things can be achieved right away. Coaches will lose their tempers, sake the wrong call during an important game or even push an athlete too hard and burn them out. A virtue theoretical approach to coaching suggests that those who coach are individuals who, at their core, conduct their lives consciously as moral agents. Central to this notion of Persephone is the idea that as embodied beings, coaches do not exist as compartmentalized technicians whose role is deliberately and consciously adopted in specific bound times and places.
Instead, the division between who they are as a person and what it means to be a coach should be self-consciously ambiguous. (Carr, 1998) Coaching is one of the most difficult tasks a person can undergo. Whether it’s coaching the local Little League t-ball team or coaching an athlete all the way to the Olympic podium. With any job in coaching there’s a weight placed on the individuals shoulders, suddenly they are not only responsible for upholding their own good morals, but now they have to keep a number of athletes on the virtuous track.
Making sure no member of the team is doping, making the training environment fair to everyone and even boosting the confidence of everyone and not simply focusing on a particularly talented athlete. This entails that the coach will be emulated by children and may see this as a deliberate aspect of their practice, particularly with regard to mirroring the technical and tactical dimensions of sport – players will be anxious to follow their coach’s instructions, game plan and technical expectations.
However, the coach may have very little control over which aspects of their behavior or character register with children and so emulation may mean that children will copy unintended and unappealing behaviors which may, in turn, come to be habits of character. (Yardman, Jones & Jones, 2010) Coaches can become one of the most important people n an athletes life, if not the most important. The relationship between coach and athlete can be virtuous to both parties if handled correctly. “Happiness, however, cannot be sought directly, it comes as a result of living a life of virtue. (Aitkin, 2001). If this is true a coach should be one of the most virtuous people of all. Aristotle spoke about achieving excellence through being happy and believed that wealth and all other ‘perks’ of life so to speak were simply enabling factors but not the root of the cause. Sport can bring fame, wealth and many other luxuries, but is achieving excellence in sport considered orally right? Each athlete has a different goal, some want to be famous, some want to be the best they can be, others want to break every record out there and some just want to get rich.
The motive behind the action is what makes an action morally correct or incorrect. “It seems, if we follow Aristotle to the letter, we can explore excellence in sport only if we reject the notion that top-level competitive sport today plays some role. ” (Hollyhock, 2005). This means for an athlete to consider themselves morally virtuous they must reject the idea of Aristotle virtues. That by participating in sport itself, omitting that can destroy your body they are not adhering to the guidelines laid down by Aristotle. Still it may be objected that rejecting sport as a societal good seems unjustifiably paternalistic.
Who after all is in a position to determine for me just what is good for me? Contrary to Aristotle, the notion of a society that allows its citizens to determine what the goods of that society are seems not just attractive, but correct. Justice itself demands that we are free to choose for ourselves Our own ends; these should not to be determined for us in advance. (Hollyhock, 2005) Hollyhock makes a good mint because one cannot do right by Aristotle but ignore the cardinal virtues. In sport it’s more important to follow the cardinal virtues than achieving excellence by Aristotle standards.
The cardinal virtues are something everyone can aspire to following, athlete or not, and can lead to the life of happiness that Aristotle describes without all of the nit-picky details he describes. So in that sense, yes, excellence can be achieved through sport, but only if the athlete or coach is adhering to the cardinal virtues and maintaining a standard of individual excellence within himself. The athletic world is so irrupt now that one might wonder if morals in sports will continue to exist or if they will simply fade into the distance and become forgotten like many athletes who cheated.