Wittgenstein at the Olympics

We're all playing the language game

What are the Olympics for? Politicians argue that they are good for the economy and a country’s prestige. Purists retort that the value is to be found in the games themselves.  Wittgenstein’s metaphor of language as a kind of game can help us resolve the disagreement. As with language, the real purpose of games is only apparent to those inside the activity, argues Ian Ground.


Despite everything, it’s a spectacular summer of sport. But our world remains mired in the pandemic. Some 78% of Japanese citizens, fearful of the Covid risk, oppose the Olympics being held in their own country. Some of us will be asking whether it’s worth it. What, after all is the point of sport and games?

One idea is that the whole point of sport and games is that they are, precisely, pointless. Or rather whatever point they have is, as philosophers are wont to say, internal to them. If we try to cash that kind of internal value out into another currency - its benefits

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