Abstract
Amusement, diversion, fun. This was the definition of sport offered by the first dictionary I consulted in preparation for this lecture, and if we accept it then there is at least a sporting chance that we will all be able to agree: mountaineering is a sport. But it is not a definition that sits easily with much of what sport is currently thought to be. This talk is part of a series on Philosophy and Sport timed to mark the London Olympics, and amusement and fun are probably not the first words to spring to mind there, certainly not for the competitors. They may be a part of it, but I don't think it unreasonable to think more immediately of commerce, competition, achievement. So this evening I need to consider mountaineering within that context. I also want to make clear at the outset that I shall take mountaineering to mean not just the climbing of high snow-covered peaks, but mountain travel and exploration, and simply recreational mountain walking. There doesn't need to be anything technical involved. At the same time, I must include rock-climbing within my brief, and for at least two reasons. One is that rock-climbing and mountaineering are closely connected historically. In it's early years, alpine climbing often led to rock climbing, the latter being seen as geographically convenient training for ‘the real thing’ – namely, the annual alpine holiday. When I was a teenager in the 1970s the influence went the other way: I began with rock-climbing in the Lake District, and proceeded to alpine climbing. And secondly, rock-climbing and mountaineering are administratively and politically connected. I suspect that the former, which in Britain as often as not doesn't take place in mountains at all, now absorbs the major part of the public funds devoted to these matters. And it is predominantly on the British experience that I want to draw
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DOI 10.1017/S1358246113000295
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