Olympism and Reason

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Coubertin follows one of the basic intentions of modern (positive) science: to deal with religion and thus with metaphysics, philosophy, i.e. with ethics and critical reason. The point is to “curb” reason by means of empiricism and quantification and reduce it to an instrumentalized ratio free from “evaluative prejudices” and pursuit of truth. Milan Kangrga says on that: “This lack of distinction between reason and intellect – where intellect, as the organ of theoretico-scientific cognition based on the method according to mathematico-geometric construction in purely and exclusively quantitative terms, becomes not only superior to reason but absolutely dominant – turns out to be ominously epochal for the whole historical (theoretico-practical) development of the Modern Age. Intellect, in its purely instrumental-pragmatical-calculatory form  and sense, becomes the exclusive tool of a scientifico-technical domination not only over nature but also over society and man, and thus the tool of the politico-ideological domination over the world and the method of its controlling. As a pure means of something else (and not of man), by its extensivity, i.e. direction only to the outer, that line of rationality necessarily loses ground, since it moves in the vacuum of the human and meaningful, and thus ends in pure irrationalism, as the ferment of anti-humanism.” (38)

Coubertin does not only strive to eliminate from people’s consciousness, by way of Olympism (sport), the emancipatory impulses of the European culture and create a positive one-mindedness, but seeks to destroy (critical) reason itself and man’s playing nature that directs him to other people and to create a uniform character. That is why Coubertin insists on upbringing without education. The basis of social integration becomes not the adoption of certain knowledge and views, based on natural sciences, but a “spontaneous” mindless combatant physical activism, dominated by the knowledge of the world through its direct experience. In that sense, Coubertin emphasizes that the highest quality of the Hellenes was the fact that they were “little given to contemplation, even less bookish”. Instead of an absolutized knowledge, a positive life becomes the foundation and origin of positive one-mindedness. Olympism is not only the production of the ruling ideology in the form of a positive conscious, but above all of the relations between people according to the principle homo homini lupus and of the relation of man to himself (the principle of “greater effort” with the corresponding principle citius, altius, fortius). In the form of the production of competitions and records (“the development of human powers”) it is the production of a positive character and a positive conscious in “pure” sense. Coubertin seeks to establish a positive life reduced to an agonal physical activism that is beyond the questions of truth and lie, of appearance and essence, of good and evil, of freedom and slavery, of justice and injustice … Sport becomes the symbolic model of a mindless agonal life activism, which corresponds to the tendency of man to live without thinking of the purpose of life, of his social position, of future, and thus is the prototype of a positive life. Olympism is not only a political theory of sport, but above all the philosophy of a positive life.

Modern Olympism deals with man as a self-conscious being and abolishes man’s conscious relation to the world. Since utilitarism is the indisputable starting point and man is fatally subjected to the laws of evolution, self-conscious, like moral conscious, becomes a burden that prevents man from focusing on the acceleration of progress. Olympism rejects any strivings for questioning, dialogue, truth… Coubertin is not the creator of a “new mindfulness” but of a new mindlessness, more precisely, a dehumanized and instrumentalized ratio becomes the means of the ruling “elite” for creating a mindless world. Olympism follows the original intention of positive philosophy that seeks to politically instrumentalize reason. The turning of philosophy by way of science into a positivistic discipline presupposes the turning of science into a technical means of a dehumanized and repressive politics. To abolish philosophy by way of science is possible only when science is deprived of its creative and progressive nature and acquires a manipulative (technical-executive) character as the instrument of the ruling class for planning the “future” and carrying out “progress”. Coubertin placed philosophy between the hammer of positivistic science and the anvil of “positive religion” (modern paganism). Science becomes the means for purifying philosophy from everything that offers the possibility of a critical relation to the existing world from the point of view of the emancipatory possibilities created in civil society, and from the point of view of the idea of future that involves the creation of a new world. At the same time, Coubertin “overcomes” philosophy with “positive religion” by depriving it of reason and critique, namely, by depriving it of its essence and thus of the reason of its existence. “Positive religion” represents the end of philosophy. Speaking of Comte’s dealing with the “theologico-metaphysical philosophy”, Marcuse points out the essential element of Coubertin’s conception: “The positivist repudiation of metaphysics was thus coupled with a repudiation of man’s claim to alter and reorganize his social institutions in accordance with his rational will. This is the element Comte’s positivism shares with the original philosophies of counter-revolution sponsored by Bonald and De Maistre. (…) The ‘revolutionary spirit’ was to be checked by spreading another teaching, that society possesses an immutable natural order to which men will must submit.” (39) Coubertin abolishes metaphysics, but creates from sport a metaphysical curtain with which he seeks to hide the true nature of capitalism. Horkheimer and Adorno say about that: “That the hygienic shop-floor and everything that goes with it, the people’s car or the sportsdrome, leads to an insensitive liquidation of metaphysics, would be irrelevant; but that in the social whole they themselves become metaphysics, an ideological curtain behind which the real evil is concentrated, is not irrelevant.” (40)

Coubertin is not an agnostic: the truth is in the existing world of “the factual” (and not beyond or above it), and its original and “holy” essence is in ancient Greece. It is neither searched for not created, but is given with the existing order. By absolutizing the world of “the factual” Coubertin absolutized the truth. Man does not get to know the truth, he directly experience it every day through a mindless and antireasonable combatant activism: “the knowledge” of the truth (the world) has a direct empirical character. Experience is not the basis of a mindful reasoning, from which follows a (reasonable) relation of man to the existing world in his endeavour to create the world according to his (human) measure, but an instrument in the fight for domination (survival). Underlying the knowledge of the world (the truth) is not a need for a change and the creation of a new (just) world, but a need for its preservation. At the same time, upbringing before education involves an evaluative apriorism that becomes the basis of a cognitive apriorism. Only the impressions that help us to survive and proceed are accepted. Experiencing the truth (the world) involves the crippling of personality and thus denies man the possibility of comprehending and experiencing the fullness of the world and creating his whole personality and a critical-changing relation to it. A reduced and instrumentalized sensibility becomes the basis of the Olympic epistemology. Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine is par excellence anti-intellectual. It rejects the principle nihil est in intelectu quod non fuerit in sensu. There is not a direct link between senses and intellect, but between senses and character: sensuality is reduced to the reception of those impressions that do not hinder the creation of a positive character – and that is the basis and limitation of the relation to reality and the creation of a normative conscious. Coubertin is the precursor of the modern spectacle: the most important thing is to dazzle man and penetrate into his subconscious and thus win him over from the depths of his being – by excluding reason.

The principle savoir pour prevoir, prevoir pour agir represents the supreme cognitive principle of Coubertin’s positive gnoseology which does not rely on the authority of science, but on the authority of the ruling power that uses science as a means for strengthening the class order. Coubertin rejects from science the “evaluative judgments” and seeks to turn it into an exclusive political tool of the ruling class for dealing with the emancipatory possibilities of civil society. A scientifically based “objectivism” becomes the mask for a political (class) voluntarism expressed in the maxim auctoritas, non veritas facit legem. In that context, sociology is reduced to “physique sociale” (Comte) and the latter is reduced to politics as a dehumanized technique of ruling. Coubertin eliminates from science the strivings for the truth and for a novum, and reduces it to the political practice of the ruling “elite”. “The truth” becomes the product of an instrumentalized positive reason and is deprived of the libertarian, moral and aesthetic dimensions. Ultimately, Coubertin seeks to put under control of the ruling will every segment of life and to abolish all the spheres that can limit it: the absolutistic and totalitarian voluntarism is the essence of his Olympic doctrine and practice.

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