Olympism as a Conceptual Core of Agonic Process and Its Historical Variants

Olympism as a Conceptual Core of Agonic Process and Its Historical Variants


N.N. Vizitey, professor, Dr.Phil.Nat.
State university of physical education and sport, Republic of Moldova, Kishinev city, Republic of Moldova

Key words: agonality, Olympism, sports competitions.

It is generally known that agon is a Greek word. Agon is struggle, contest. The restless desire to compete penetrates into all spheres of social existence of an antique Greek, is the basis of his self-identification and self-affirmation, which have precise exterior forms here. «The unity of a man and his consciousness in a Greek - says M. Bakhtin - was purely public; man was quite literally all on the outside» [1]. It is essential that the understanding of the agonality by a Greek was deeply metaphysical: it is not just an external form of what is happening, but its inner essence - both on an interpersonal and a cosmological levels, and it is the first notion, according to Nietzsche, that is the basis for the second one: «The idea of individual competition of the Greeks and the states was moved to the field of general ideas ... and from now on it is what turns the wheels of the world» [7]. Life of the world as a whole, its movement - is a competition of certain basic origins antagonistically opposing each other; in particular, Empedocles had "Filia" (Love) and "Neykos" (Enmity). It is fundamentally important that struggle, which is, as Nietzsche says, commenting on Heraclitus, the eternal justice, "is the source of all formation" [8]. Struggle - is the life of the Cosmos and, accordingly, the nascency of the situation of predictability, consistency and clarity of the worldview in the conditions when chaos never stops its destructive work. This process is omnipresent. At the level of social existence, however, it appears in a special way, as it is implemented with the willful participation of man who acts as a "meeting point" where "the source of all being perceives itself ... in the same act, in which man sees himself rooted in it". All of this in its holistic view is the Greek agonality. Whereas Olympism is the internal set and that particular contribution associated with its implementation that a person makes to the agonistic process: a clarification and affirmation of the law of life of the world, in the fulfillment of justice and finally in self-fulfillment.

Surely, according to Greeks, an Olympic athlete is, first of all, the Divine Being, living on the Olympus. However, it’s characteristic for him to have human shape and he lives according to space laws, being a material, physical component of it, like an ordinary, earthly man. «Here Gods belong to the world, just as people, as matter» (R. Guardini); and «the laws of physics are the imperative of fate» (A. Whitehead), therefore fate is a predestination of not only man, but of God as well. At the same time Olympian-God cannot be defeated by fate, because he is immortal. He is, in fact, distanced from fate and therefore does not come in contact with it, in corporeal sense. But it necessarily follows that the main contradiction and the main problem of the formation is the problem of conjugation of life and death, but in fact the problem of justice of the world in which a man is acting as a factor of the conjugation must perish - this problem is not available to the Deity, and hence its role in life of the world is not absolute and his responsibility for what happens is relative. Man being mortal is in a different position: he is physically immersed in the very flesh of the world, and therefore will always be defeated by fate physically. As opposed to God, he is an active and energetic participant of events. It is his and not the Deity's being in the world that promotes the conjugation of opposites, the implementation of a higher law and the prevalence of justice. He can be a hero: he can cope with fate in its most fatal manifestation and contribute to it being a factor of assertion of the truth of life and its sense. Only the mortals can be heroes. (J. Huizinga: "In Greece, the term "hero" is placed next to the notion of "deceased" [13].) And Greece, for all its attention to the gods still primarily honors its heroes.

The contest with fate is the most just and fair contest. So the competition, where the winner is determined most objectively and fairly, - what sport agon is, acts for a Greek as the most crucial. It determines the one who is a real Olympic athlete, who is the “best Greek”, but not just “the best athlete” (K. Jaspers). Potentially, but under certain circumstances quite practically sport puts human at the face of fate, and therefore provides a sense of competition of the highest rank for the participants. Sports agon therefore provides a person the maximum enlightenment of consciousness; a Greek is open to the truth of the world riddled by fatal contradiction that only man can and should fully resolve. Sport provides for a Greek high general world outlook (actually - metaphysical) competence, which is a precondition of his competence in all other spheres of social life, which, as it is worthy to note, ensures the extremely high sociocultural efficiency and a special place in the history for the Greek civilization in general.

European Middle Ages significantly changed the metaphysical situation of the human presence in the world. Christianity in general does not accept the Greek agonality and associated with it glory and external success as something morally significant. "Be the last, and be the servant of the latter," - says the Gospel. However, the Gospel also says: "First shall be last and the last shall be first," and "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted". Thus, the value of superiority is not canceled, but only gets a new interpretation. Life as a unity of opposing principles in Christianity - is the confrontation of the sinful and the divine. However, the essence of sinfulness is in alienation itself, alienation from the divine - a consequence of the fatal fall of man; further on sinful is considered all that is done by man not from the feeling of the divine. It should be noted that the alienation from God experienced by man here is as a basic event, as in the case of a Greek being alienated from the source of all being (from arche), which is the foundation of the Cosmos. The difference is that in the first situation Absolut is given to man as an external reality, whereas in the second case - primarily as an internal reality. Unequal in general are the ways in which people overcome the mentioned disunity. In Greece he strives by learning and arranging the world to bring it in line with the state of his ego. In Christianity, by actively suppressing his sinfulness - bring his ego in line with the essence of the Divine. His prayer is the appeal of a fallen and penitent man to God, it is a repentance, which, however, does not only contain the bitterness of self-denial, but also the joy of finding and approval of man's true self. "The paradox of self-negation, - said Paul Tillich, - is that it must first assert itself, in order to be able to deny itself" [10]. This paradox has its continuation and development: a prayer, by actualizing the divine in man, gives the opportunity to become an equal participant in it, to have and to defend his own opinions in a dialogue with God, even to object him, which leads a person (at least in a tendency) to theomachy. (S. Kierkegaard: "The one who fought with the world became great by conquering the world, and the one who fought with himself became even more great by self-defeating, but the one who fought with God, became the greatest of all. So they all fought on this earth, there was the one who defeated all with his strength, and there was the one who defeated God with his powerlessness" [6].)

A prayer begins with self-denial, but eventually becomes self-affirmation, gives a person strength, increases his independence, and creates a tendency to change the base vector of the volitional activity, its reversal in the direction of his external world, the transformation of which becomes for a Christian after a certain point as relevant as the transformation of the internal world. For this reason, states J. Huizinga, within the boundaries of Christianity "a conscience arrow may indicate a case within a broad scale - from total non-resistance to abusive labor" [13]; P. Tillich notes that "the conservative tendency of the official churches have never been able to fully suppress the revolutionary element in the symbol of the kingdom of God" [10]; Finally, even the Gospel says: "The kingdom of heaven is taken by strength, and those exercising strength shall reach it".

Agonal process thus appears in the Christian tradition in a special way. On the one hand, it is the internal rivalries of the divine and the sinful, the conjugation of which is provided in a prayerful repentance. Here powerlessness becomes a kind of strength. On the other hand - we see an active external confrontation with the ungodly world that, in general, takes a person beyond the basic in Christianity metaphysical situation, gives him such an autonomy, which stands (at least potentially) as a factor of distancing man from God and, therefore, as a factor of sinfulness. Once again it is paradoxical, but it is here a limiting for a Christian situation is produced: in the outside world for the sake of the victory of the divine over the sinful, man puts himself in danger of being open to the sinful. The destiny of man is thus once again at stake. And it is Olympism as well. But, obviously - not antique. In the last one, the meeting with fate is a physical act happening here and now, whereas in Christianity the openness to the sinful, the one mentioned above, is not fully fateful for a man, as fulfillment of his destiny as a physical being is delayed until the second coming of Christ. And this situation does not fully provide the necessary conditions for the existence of the sports agonality.

In the Eastern culture life of the world is also represented as the confrontation and unity of opposing principles, while man himself - as an agent and a carrier of such unity. But the opposition here does not have a radically antagonistic, conflict character, in fact, this is a friendly opposition (Atman-Brahman, Yang-Yin). The task of man is to fully depart himself beyond the dualistic perception of the world. (T. Suzuki: "When the mind rests in the unity of things, the duality disappears by itself" [9].) Competition (and likewise Comparison and Evaluation) is treated as something entirely unacceptable. (J. Krishnamurti: "What is, exists only when there is no comparison at all. Then there is no contradiction, and therefore there is no conflict" [5].) Man does not seek to realize himself here actively - neither in the external nor in the internal world (neither a Greek nor a Christian way). The way to the desired is introspection, withdrawal to the transcendental, meditative state, which, however, also requires willpower and therefore self-actualization of the subject. But the will here is specific toward its western variant. It aims to address the problem of the direct conjugacy of the internal with the external, and that creates a meditative state. Here the will, encountering the external (or in other cases - the internal), is initially focused on the actualization of the internal (respectively - the external) component, which in a holistic act of perception is always open to a person to a greater or lesser extent. Each sense penetrates into another and is subjected to a "transformation", by changing its character, which weakens the willpower in its external and internal manifestations. A will of the active changes transforms into a will of non-interference (wu-wei).

The inconsistency of the given situation is that the required enlightenment and the corresponding self-affirmation here is the more significant, the more profound the self-immersion is, which, however, in the extreme case is in some sense a man loses himself: partly - in the usual meditation or fully - in a very deep one (parinirvana). And the corresponding willful effort is also a particular kind of Olympism. However, there are almost no conditions for the sports agonality here, in any case, if trying to associate these conditions with the basic features of a meditation act as such.

It is fundamentally important that the affirmation, mentioned above, in real life cannot be an uninterrupted, consistently developing process in the right direction. People systematically practicing meditation sessions should alternate them with other activities, related to the need of solving practical problems of everyday life. The problem of changing activity, which takes place here is, in fact, the most significant to the eastern man. Its radical solution is by going into meditation, to remain there forever, which in cosmological terms can be regarded to as an act of becoming in its full-scale version. Generally, however, the path to nirvana is long, and not all are able to pass it through. In fact, here we have the problem of oriental martial arts - their philosophy and practice. It is known that the first thing a man is oriented to when finding himself in the face of an external conflict situation - is avoiding the conflict. In case if it is not possible due to the circumstances, the man that came into conflict must manifest himself so as not to weaken the capability of staying in the meditative state - neither during the conflict nor after its completion. A prerequisite of one or the other, in turn, is a high potential for dynamic meditation on what the practice of martial arts is being focused on. Note that the effectiveness of the actions in this case is assessed quite differently than in modern sports: dominant focus here remains on transcendental self-realization, meditation, which, however, being a value itself, is also a prerequisite for a high-motor skill - an aspect conducive to make the human's stay in the conflict short, which, as we know, is important. In sports, basic is the orientation on the external affirmation and harmonious (in fact, near-meditaive) conditions associated with highly technical execution of motor actions most often carry an applied sense for the doer. The situation in general here, however, depends on the existential-semantic content, which when executed has an effect on a man. Attention is drawn to that the major representatives of the Eastern meditation practices of XX-XXI centuries often consider the meditation condition not as an end purpose but as a bridgehead, based on which a person performs socially significant achievements: S. Vivekonanda: "Every Indian must become a giant capable of moving mountains with the power of his intellect" [2]; Sri Aurobindo - "with the help of Integral Yoga we must transform human nature and society as a whole" [15] etc. In this regard, there is a fundamentally important question: can an antique setting on an agonistic situation of such target orientation in which a person confronts fate be considered as one of acceptable options? – Probably, yes. It is interesting that in Greece contemplation and the corresponding enlightenment of the consciousness are considered, as well as in the East, the highest state of the individual, and "the situation of full presence" of a man (according to M. Mamardashvili this idea is running through Greek philosophy) is a full-scale harmony in which the whole world is integrally presented and open for the human's perception, as well as the fact of a man's participation in this world. Therefore, an oriental person, in the event of accepting a point of view of an antique person, according to which the orientation on the approval in the outside world in the extreme case implies an appointment with destiny, could without fundamentally changing his historical and cultural identity, accept the position of the Western man. Similarly, for the Western man it is possible while retaining his original historical and cultural status, to embrace the view of the Eastern man (or get close to it) if in his externally oriented self-affirmation, he will find an orientation on the ultimate reality and discover his oughtness towards it, accenting his motive to maintain the harmony of the world (which is not typical for a Western man nowadays). It should be noted that today there is an attempt to consider the Greek model as a starting point in the search for the common grounds in the whole civilized world. M. Heidegger emphasizes: "Any interpretation of modernity can occur and is able to take root only if in dialogue with the Greek thinkers and their language, it will take root in the ground of our historical existence. Such dialogue is still to get started. It is yet barely prepared; and for us it is the inevitable precondition for a dialogue with the East Asian world". What M. Heidegger offers in the general cultural level, is actually offered by P. de Coubertin in the field of sport. We urgently need a new, more metaphysically well-founded understanding of the basic contradictions of the existence of the world and the ways of their conjugacy, we need a new agonality and a new idea of Olympism. And sport plays a significant role here.


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