Beyond Autotelic Play

Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 38 (2):149-166 (2011)
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In the Philosophy of Sport literature, play has been widely conceived, in whole or part, as an autotelic activity; that is, an activity pursued for intrinsic factors. I examine several versions of the conception of play as an autotelic activity. Given these different accounts, I raise the question whether the concept of autotelic play is tenable. I examine three possibilities: (i) accept the concept of autotelic play and reject the possibility of satisfying the conditions for play activities; (ii) accept the concept and acknowledge that play refers to a range of activities ranging from the purely autotelic to something less; and, (iii) reject the definition of play as an autotelic activity and redefine play. I argue that the third option is the best avenue for constructing a viable account of play. In defending this third option, I argue that play activities are value laden, that the value of play is an empirical matter, and that the effect of motivating reasons on behavior is the basis for determining which motivating reasons count as intrinsic or extrinsic. I conclude that the weight of the arguments suggest we would be well-served to redefine and move beyond the notion of autotelic play



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