June 7, 2018

Lev Kreft: Aristotle doing a Bradbury

Chapter 6 »Aristotle’ Pentathlete« of Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 2010 Special Issue by Heather L. Reid opens with Steven Bradbury surprise victory in the 1.000-metre short track speed skating at 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Favourites for medals all crashed into each other in the final metres of the race, and Bradbury, safely far behind, was the lucky winner. Heather Reid comments that some observers might even interpret athletic luck as deserved divine favour, but Aristotle wouldn’t be among those people. But was it luck, chance or coincidence? And do appearances of sport heroes of which Bradbury is obviously a counter-example prove that humans have a potential for real heroes, or, does it contrary exemplify that all sublime heroism is built on tragicomic pretence which cannot hide contingency of our existence? To discuss her evaluation of this extraordinary event which entered in sport and non-sport urban vocabulary as «to do a Bradbury«, I propose three steps. The first is to look into specific tactics and chances involved with short track speed skating which makes it very different from better known long track speed skating. The second is to step from Aristotle’s ethics to his Physics and examine the case of chance or coincidence when human agents are involved, and to find a case for another ethical view of Bradbury’s luck. The third is to follow Bradbury’s career in short track speed skating and to find out if the whole story makes the singular event from the final stage of his skating biography appear differently. To conclude, I will discuss ethical situation of human agents in the world of coincidences.

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