Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Coubertin's Idea of 'Mutual Respect' According to Kant's Concept of Moral Philosophy

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Coubertin's Idea of 'Mutual Respect' According to Kant's Concept of Moral Philosophy

Article excerpt


First I am going to analyse this work in detail with the objective of getting an exact definition of Coubertin's term "respect" and its function. Referring to this, Kant's conception of respect, which appears above all in his writings, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason and Metaphysics of Morals, (1) will be elaborated and analyzed. By way of a conclusion, there will be an attempt to complete and round out Coubertin's idea of mutual respect, the basic principle of his entire ideology, with Kant's thoughts to get an extended concept and an expanded understanding of "respect." This is not an effort to place Kant on the same level as Coubertin--that would be more than arrogant--but it is the attempt to get a new, wide-ranging interpretation of this term, through the symbiosis of these two different thoughts.

Coubertin's 'Mutual Respect'

In his preface to Die gegenseitige Achtung, Coubertin already shows us his proper intention: he is looking for a "balancing idea" that is able to organise and control moral commitments. (2) As an adjustment factor, he locates mutual respect between tolerance and faith. It is not possible to achieve a common faith in modern society, and tolerance, as a form of disinterest, is too weak to serve as a principle for a moral education. (3) Before we can proceed, it is necessary to say something about his use of the terms "faith" and "religion" and, therefore, I want to quote from a text by Alois Koch:

   Coubertin says: 'I do not belong to those who believe that mankind
   can get along without religion. I take the word here in its most
   general sense, not as belief in a certain form of the divine
   reality, but as turn to the ideal of a higher life, as the desire
   for perfection' ...

   Religion and faith are in no way identical. The Christian faith
   does not exist primarily in a system of rites and behaviours which
   express a religious feeling; it means rather the option that the
   reality which makes possible a true human existence is a personal
   vis-avis who revealed itself in Jesus of Nazareth and with whom the
   believer gets in touch....

   Coubertin's religion or Olympism has nothing to do with the
   Christian view of religion and faith. (4)

Now, as we come back to his determination of mutual respect, we will need the explanations above. With the help of five exemplary areas of humanity he wants to show us the indispensability of respect and in which sector it appears most clearly.

Respect for convictions. As an example of true belief, Coubertin mentions religion. He explains his view of the Christian religion as a "dead cult" (5) and he remarks that this "cult" is the only cornerstone of Christian religion. It has nothing to do with his "feeling of religion." (6) The hope for an eternal life and the idea of merit are certain and sustainable facts which make the religion indestructible and eternal even if the form is changeable and can be modified. (7) Therefore, the human being is either a believer or an apostate but both of them have to be respected because both are convinced of their sense of direction. Without paying respect to another person and his personality, even though he has a different conviction, international understanding is not possible. Convictions play the most important role when it comes to the motivation of a human being to do something. We are all human beings and, therefore, we all have to respect humanity. We have to respect any human being because of his humanity.

Respect for living conditions. There is a disparity of living conditions in the social sector but never on the moral level. (8) "Living conditions," in Coubertin's view, are settings of values and do not refer to someones' social position. That is the reason why they have to be respected by everyone. However, the disparity in the social sector is inevitable because its law or rule is based on the modern "law of war. …

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