Doping Scandals and “Nature’s Aristocracy”

In the August 2014 issue of The Journal of Medicine and PhilosophyPieter BonteSigrid Sterckx, and Guido Pennings argue that there’s something morally retrograde about the values which see natural talent as categorically purer and morally better than artificially supplemented talent. Here’s the abstract to their new paper called “May the Blessed Man Win: A Critique of the Categorical Preference for Natural Talent over Doping as Proper Origins of Athletic Ability”:

Doping scandals can reveal unresolved tensions between the meritocratic values of equal opportunity + reward for effort and the “talentocratic” love of hereditary privilege. Whence this special reverence for talent? We analyze the following arguments: (1) talent is a unique indicator of greater potential, whereas doping enables only temporary boosts (the fluke critique); (2) developing a talent is an authentic endeavor of “becoming who you are,” whereas reforming the fundamentals of your birth suit via artifice is an act of alienation (the phony critique); (3) your (lack of) talent informs you of your proper place and purpose in life, whereas doping frustrates such an amor fati self-understanding (the fateless critique). We conclude that these arguments fail to justify a categorical preference for natural talent over integrated artifice. Instead, they illustrate the extent to which unsavory beliefs about “nature’s aristocracy” may still be at play in the moral theatre of sports.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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