Containment: what if home sports made us better?

Seghir Lazri works on the theme of social vulnerability of athletes. In this column, he takes a few pictures of sport through the social sciences. How the social explains sport, and vice versa.

The measures taken following the appearance of the Covid-19 in Europe have paralyzed all high-level sport activity and containment has prohibited mass sports. These restrictions do not prevent you from practicing a physical activity at home, or even from running outside, of course respecting the health rules laid down. This unprecedented situation implicitly invites us to rethink our physical and sporting activity. Therefore we ask ourselves: what benefit can we derive from a sporting activity during a period of confinement?

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Return to self

First, the body of knowledge about the sporting phenomenon reminds us that sport is broadly divided into two systems. If modern sport is characterized by confrontation with others through competition leading to a hierarchy of individuals, it is also a means for individuals to confront themselves. This second aspect, as sociologist Paul Yonnet recalls, calls on individuals to engage in a “Private, intimate competition, of which they are the only judges”, measuring “Both figuratively and literally”. The current situation actually favors this aspect of the sporting phenomenon by inviting us to practice an activity to keep us in shape, while limiting our travel and our contacts. Thus the obsession with performance is reduced and the idea of ​​merit is detached from the prioritization with others.

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From a more anthropological point of view, this very absence of competition and classification appears as a “Celebration of the body, sensations and emotions”, according to analyzes by researcher David Le Breton. Indeed, for the latter, the concern to measure oneself “And to do better than the last time” feeds “An intensity of being that is lacking in the ordinary”. And in this sense, claim this form of “duality” in front of you is to confront your “Personal resources, his sagacity, his resistance, his nerves”. It is sort of redirecting your efforts and better redefining them. This home practice therefore invites us to experience “Soothing our limits and taking flesh in our existence”.

The effort as moral elevation

These writings by David Le Breton concerning sport for oneself, one that one does at home or alone outdoors, also highlight the importance of effort and its nature. On this specific topic, the work of the philosopher Isabelle Queval informs us about the notion of “great effort”. According to her, the good effort would be an act which would be freed from the moral of the permanent surpassing of oneself, that is to say from the idea “To be somewhere where we are not”. In other words, the good effort would be an action far from the external forms of domination, allowing the individual to be accomplished “By finding oneself”. The period of confinement then appears to be an adequate time to reconnect with this idea of ​​good effort, since this notion also refers to the conception that certain Greek and Roman thinkers had of physical exercise and more generally of human action.

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In a closed and finished world as the ancient philosophers and in particular Aristotle could conceive it, physical and intellectual perfection is synonymous with correspondence with nature and its order. Thus, physical exercise that allows you to be in good shape and in good health is fully recommended, but with a certain weighting relative to natural limits. Body activity must respond to a balance and “Should not be practiced at the expense of other disciplines”, as philosophy researcher Mael Goarzin reminds us. For the latter, physical exercise in the ancient world has no other objective than the virtue of the soul, in particular courage (a fair balance between fear and recklessness). Physical exercise, as the ancients recommended, should above all allow a moral elevation beneficial to the city. And in this sense doing sport in moderation, as we are forced to do in this period, also allows us to be more virtuous for society.

In short, confinement is an opportunity to practice sport differently. The injunctions specific to sports competition (especially with others) being absent, it is possible to turn to a less intense, more personal and deeper practice. In addition, the benefits both physical (magnified body for the summer) and psychological (feeling better) that we can draw allow an elevation of our condition and a better understanding of what surrounds us, in particular the current situation.

Seghir Lazri

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The universe as a playground for foxes

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows a big thing”, the Greek poet Archilochus was quoted in 1953 by the Russian-British philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who used this phrase to mark a fundamental difference between two groups of thinkers: the one who puts everything in the service of a great, coherent idea, and the others who pursue this and that – “centrifugal rather than centripetal” – driven by a multitude of unrelated thoughts and experiences. Dante, Platon or Hegel are representatives of the group of “hedgehogs”, Shakespeare, Aristotle or Goethe, on the other hand, to be classified as examples of the group of “foxes”. The British exceptional mathematician and physicist Freeman Dyson took up this classification again in 2007 in his book “A Many-Colored Glass – Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe” and applied it to science: “Most of the great discoveries were made by Hedgehogs made, most of them small by foxes. ”Science needs both hedgehogs and foxes for healthy growth: hedgehogs to dig deep into the nature of things, foxes to fully understand the complex, diverse details of our universe explore.

Sibylle Anderl

Dyson himself followed his Fuchsian interests by moving easily from one problem to the next throughout his life: mathematics, physics, technology, religion, philosophy, interpretations of the past and visions for the future. The fact that he developed decisive ideas as a thought leader made him a world-famous scientist and intellectual. “One can say that an article by Dyson will always contain the last word, derived in the most direct and elegant way,” said the American physicist Elliot Lieb in 1996, in the preface to Dyson’s book “Selected Papers”, in a nutshell of the way his colleague works.

Mathematical elegance as a leitmotif

The application of elegant mathematics to practical problems was a guiding principle of his scientific work. It was also the basis of Dyson’s contribution that earned him the greatest fame as a physicist: the harnessing of quantum field theory, a theory to describe the interaction between light and matter, in the interpretation of experimental data. Before Dyson, there were various approaches to this: a mathematically extremely complicated theory that could only be put into practice with great effort, independently found by the American Julian Seymour Schwinger and the Japanese Shinichiro Tomonaga. And a simpler, more descriptive method, developed in America by Richard Feynman, whose foundation and validity were unclear.

Dyson’s achievement was to mathematically relate the various approaches of his colleagues Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga to each other, to unite them and to make them practically usable. The three received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for this theory of quantum electrodynamics. Dyson went away empty-handed, but registered this without any resentment. In his perspective, he had finally combined only what already existed, “fox work” on “hedgehog basics”.

Professorship even without a doctor

Freeman Dyson was born on December 15, 1923 in Crowthorne, England, to the musician and composer Sir George Dyson. From 1941, he deepened his early interest in mathematics while studying mathematics at Trinity College in Cambridge, including with Godfrey Harold Hardy. After the war he switched to theoretical physics and in 1947 as a student of Hans Bethe at the American Cornell University, where he also met Richard Feynman. However, he never completed the doctorate he sought there. His groundbreaking contributions to quantum electrodynamics, published in 1949, earned him a professorship at Cornell University in 1951, even without a doctorate, and a position at the renowned Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1952. There he worked in many different areas of mathematical physics in the following decades. In particular, in 1966 he demonstrated the role of the quantum mechanical Pauli principle for the stability of matter. However, he also dealt with technological projects such as the development of a nuclear propulsion system for spaceships, known as the “Orion” project.

Since the late 1970s, he has increasingly devoted himself to writing, according to his own mentions to his early mentor Hardy, who had given him on the way: “Young men should prove theorems, old men write books.” Also in his numerous popular science works He dealt with a wide range of topics and most recently came up with points of view that did not correspond to the majority opinion, such as criticism of the predictions of climate models and elaborated plans for the settlement of the solar system, which also included problems of biotechnology. “Joyful dreaming”, an optimistic view of the future, was something that distinguished him. The next century will be that of the foxes, he wrote in 2007, because they are necessary to domesticate cutting-edge technology. Dyson will no longer be able to accompany this task himself. He died on Friday near Princeton at the age of 96.

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“The scandal”, obscure object of delirium

“Ithere is always something to see, provided you know how to look “, throws Paul Wagner (Maurice Ronet), during a bourgeois reception, to a friend who was annoyed by his rascal escapade escapades. Occurring in the first third of Scandal (1967), a false crime fiction and a true philosophical treatise on madness, almost anecdotal aside seems to give the viewer the keys to the film. It’s as much a sentence of a film buff as of an entomologist, a great architect of the world, having the gift of double vision or the sense of observation, to detect what is hidden behind appearances. But above all, she says that the world is not one, there is always another story, a logic that escapes logic, and that everything is a matter of look, interpretation, and therefore delirium. This is the occult subject that this thirteenth feature hides under its twisted whimsical air, whose codes Chabrol does not really respect – crimes but no investigation, no end of story, since nothing is unequivocal . It’s almost like it’s all in the head and sick brain of a character with shaky reason. The intrigue plays on this ambiguity: following a head trauma during an attack, where a prostitute was strangled before his eyes before he lost consciousness, Paul Wagner (Ronet, masterful as a childish and disturbed hero) is sometimes subject to absences. When other women around him are murdered, everything suggests that he may be the murderer, unless he is the victim of a plot, which we imagine to have been hatched by his cousin Christine (Yvonne Furneaux), wealthy champagne merchant, married to Christopher (Anthony Perkins), a former gigolo, who wishes to sell the domain of which Paul is still the owner of the name and exerts pressure and blackmail on him. But the presence of a blonde vamp (Stéphane Audran, beauty of elusive sphynx), haunting the place, leaves other mysteries hovering …

We are far from the original idea of ​​producer Raymond Eger – a murder in a nudist camp. To the “sans-pagne”, Chabrol and his accomplice from the start, Paul Gégauff, never stingy with Lacanian puns, will have preferred “champagne”. A rotten wine, like the big bourgeoisie that the filmmaker brushes with vitriol in their decadent evenings. Gégauff’s cynical pen infuses the film with an atmosphere of destructive madness that echoes the formal biases of the staging. From the credits in the colorful colors, Chabrol accredits the idea of ​​a mental film by multiplying the plans stretched to abstraction, the fluid circular movements, the slowness, the pattern of the spiral – wink at Vertigo by Hitchcock, who also evokes the role of the double brunette / blonde woman and the presence of Anthony Perkins.

Chabrol will often say that he was influenced by the thought of the philosopher Alfred Korzybski, general semantics and non-Aristotelian logic, namely the idea that a subject is always trapped in his representations. Starting from an undecidable point – is it Paul who is mad or the world around him, or both? -, the film constantly seems to adjust to the flickering perception of the hero, often under the influence of alcohol, and this distortion of reality is visually translated by formal audacity, games of mirrors and transparencies, dense decor of heterogeneous statues and objects, and up to the creeping gestures of Ronet. An astonishing final plan, taking height, will replace the scenario writer in the position of the demiurge entomologist, observing his characters, tangled bodies, to (d) fight like three worms in a box.


Nathalie Dray

The scandal of Claude Chabrol (1967), Blu-ray € 19.99 (BQHL).

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