Between the horns: A dilemma in the interpretation of the running of the bulls - part 1: The confrontation

Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 1 (3):325 – 345 (2007)
Abstract
The essay, divided in two parts, examines the event of the running of the bulls (encierro in Spanish). The phenomenon of the encierro, a complex cultural activity of deep historical roots, demands to be understood: What drives people to risk injury or death at the horns of untamed bulls? How should we make sense of this, subjective and objectively? To answer these questions, I use a framework that relies on explanation and assessment of popular views on the way to arguing for a philosophical alternative. This arrangement is readily adaptable to many other sporting (and non-sporting) activities where risk and/or mass participation are key factors. Its unorthodox format ? organised around an opening narrative of a paradigmatic, skilled and lucky run with the bulls, as well as hors texte (direct appeals to the reader) ? brings the reader straight into the fray, philosophical and otherwise. Part I begins by presenting the history of the encierro. It also explains the dynamics of the event, often via images with pedagogical and critical side-commentaries. It proceeds to introduce and critically engage with prevalent explanations, most with ethnological tendencies, that conceive the running as tradition, rite, ritual and sport. This part ends with a dilemma whereby we either try to explain matters by resorting to particular and partial interpretations, or a ?democratic? conglomerate of superficial and confusing boundaries, or in the end we simply concede our inability to understand the phenomenon of the running of the bulls in toto. This philosophical impasse will be evaded in part 2 (Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 2, 1) via existentialist and phenomenological analysis
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