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NIETZSCHE AND THE EUROPEAN SPORT MODEL

MANAGING THE PASSION FOR COMPETITION

1. Introduction
The idea of “agôn” conceptualized as fair and noble competition has a central place in the Friedrich
Nietzsche (1884-1900) thinking. Since his first period which occurred under the influence of Wagner
and Schopenhauer, marked by texts like “The Birth of Tragedy” (1872), “Homer on Competition”
(1872) and “Untimely Meditations” (1873-1876) Nietzsche, departing from the classic works of
Homer (VIII Century b.C.), Hesiod (VIII Century b.C.), Heraclitus (540-470 b.C.), Socrates (470-399
b.C.), Plato (428/27-347 b.C.), Aristotle (384-322 b.C.), wrote about the nature of human existence,
beginning with the struggle for survival, and envisioning the building of success and excellence,
which the Greeks named “arête”.
In the present paper we will undertake a close reading of Nietzsche work, exploring the nature of
strife, how this strife channels itself into cultural forms, and how these forms according with
Nietzsche’s thinking should organize a new paradigm for the “European Sport Model (ESM)”.
2. Methods
In “The Birth of Tragedy” and in “Human, All Too Human” (1878), Nietzsche started the development
of a research method which he named “genealogical”, derived from the philological method of
research. Its application was done later by means of what the philosopher called “transvaluation of all
values in the sense of humankind overcoming”, and conceptualized as an historical process of forming
the prevalent moral values represented by the binomial good/evil.
From a hermeneutic point of view an action can only assume a corresponding meaning if it is
considered in relation to other meaningful events (Gadamer, 2005). These interrelated meanings are
analogous to language, since we understand the meaning of a word in contrast to other words within a
field of contrasts. The significance of the word “sport”, in a “genealogical” point of view, is much
richer than the simple designation of the corresponding activity. Insofar, the “ESM” to have any
precise and adequate meaning must comprehend the field of the practice of sport from its interior,
consisting rather in an understanding of the phenomena than in an explanation of it.
In our paper we develop a hermeneutic approach considering Nietzsche’s philosophy about struggle
and the literature concerning the “ESM” presented namely in the “Independent European Sport
Review” (2006) produced under the auspices of the recent UK Presidency of the European Union
(2005).
Crossing Nietzsche’s and Gadamer´s methodological perspectives, our research deals with the “ESM”
in a “suspicious hermeneutics”, which means that it starts from a strategy of suspicion, concerning
what is at the base of the ESM, considering the utilized language.
3. Results
In the “transvaluation of the values” we analysed the present and future meanings of the “ESM”
according with the following items: (1) Natural Law; (2); Super-Man; (3) Power Need; (4) Dionysius
vs Apollo; (5) Eris; (6) Socrates Demonian; (7) Ostracism Principle; (8) Eternal Return; (9) Good and
Evil; (10) State; (11) Democracy; (12) Europe.
(3.1) Concerning “natural law” in “Competition on Homer”, Nietzsche establishes from the beginning
a relation between nature and culture. He develops this perspective according to the idea of Calicles,
in Plato’s Gorgias, that the nature and the law are in radically opposing fields. And this is the master
problem of the “ESM”, which is characterized by the big disequilibrium between law and nature.
(3.2) In what concerns the “super-man” the “ESM” stresses the moral of the weak that denies life. For
these everything is inverted. This means that the weak came to be called strong and the weakness
turns into nobleness. (3.3) Nietzsche considers the “power need” as an esthetical principle that
determinates the creative force for new values. It so means “create”, “give” and “evaluate”. (3.4)
Relating “Dionysius Vs Apollo”, the organization of sports practices in the “ESM”, which is translated
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in standardization of rules and procedures in modern sports, has provoked a rupture between manual
work and intellectual work, between the poet and the philosopher, in synthesis between the “Eros” and
the “Logos”. (3.5) With the “Good Eris” from Hesiod, Nietzsche refuses the abysms of hate and “ius
belis” that by their arrogance of triumph gave free rule to the manifestation of the pre-Homeric
violence that in many circumstances characterizes the “ESM”. (3.6) In “Socrates Demonian”,
Nietzsche asserts that the there defined Socrates concept of rationality subverts the system, turning the
instincts critical and the conscience creative. A real monstrosity “per defectum”.
(3.7) With the “Ostracism Principle” that establishes natural limits to the competition are created on
the contrary the necessary conditions to have competition without those limits. (3.8) The “Eternal
Return” defines that the world passes indefinitely by the alternatives of creation and destruction,
happiness and suffering, good and evil. (3.9) The opposition “Good/Evil” in Nietzsche develops the
need to surpass the “slave’s moral” assuming the pride for risks, creativity, love to the distant and
future, and insofar surpassing the egalitarian doctrines. Values are no more than something “human,
strongly human”. (3.10) The “State” in Nietzsche characterizes the decadence, as cause and in the
measure that It slaves the thinking. In reality the “ESM” sustained in the Welfare State paradigm has
organized a unique sports model. (3.11) Positioning Nietzsche in accordance with democracy is a
“moral imperative”, after more than an hundred years of wrong interpretations and malevolence. His
thinking encircles what is nowadays known as John Rawls political liberalism and his major principle
of equity. (3.12) Relating to “Europe”, Nietzsche leaves us in “The Gay Science” the conditions
through which Europe will turn itself more artistic. He is certainly the precursor of the Europe of
communities and not the one of nationalisms.
4. Discussion
The “ESM” is now in a profound identity crisis. It is a model: (1) corporative, (2) pyramidal, (3)
pedagogical, (4) nationalist, (5) standardized, (6) of open competitive leagues, and (7) integrating a
vertical structure of social values.
The entrance of television in the big sports events, which was really initiated with the Rome Olympic
Games (1960), originated the consequent and progressive contamination of sports by the “monies”,
sport has been in a post-modern view focusing its evolution to a configuration which has the
following organizing attributes: (1) under a market economy, (2) network-based, (3) of entertainment
industry, (4) “clubist-centered”, (5) of variable geometry, and (6) integrating a vertical structure of
economic values.
As a consequence, the entire “ESM dynamics”, from sports education to entertainment industry, has to
idealise the competition model according to the post-modern society, which Nietzsche is nowadays
fairly considered a precursor.

Bibliography
UK Presidency of the EU (2006). Independent Sport Review. Report by José Luís Arnaut.
The European Sports Charter (1992). Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 24 September.
Miége, Colin (1996). Le Sport Européen, Paris, PUF.
Nietzsche, Friedrich (2000) O Nascimento da Tragédia. Lisboa, Relógio d’Água.
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