Sport Ethics

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PHIL 4205
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course is an introduction to the study of philosophy and ethics, and their application to physical education, recreation and sport. Students will acquire an awareness of ethical conduct in sport and cultivate an effective deliberative process for dealing with ethical issues in sport. The course will begin by briefly considering the practice of philosophy, especially argument and critical thinking. Students will next learn about ethical theories and their application to specific issues in sport, including some of the following: sportsmanship as an ethical category; the ethics of competition; fair play as respect and reciprocity; cheating, self-deception and the use of performance enhancing drugs; the problem of racial and gender equality in sport. Students will be afforded the opportunity to assess theoretical frameworks that can serve as the basis for comprehensive ethical decisions, and to develop the practical facility to implement those decisions in specific, concrete situations.
Course Content

The course will involve a consideration of the following five areas:

  1. An introduction to reasoning and philosophical practice, including some consideration of the basic features of argumentation and critical thinking.
  2. An introduction to the foundation of ethics: the distinction between normative and critical ethics; the scope and nature of morality; the distinction between judgments of moral obligation, judgments of moral value, and non-moral judgments; the is/ought distinction. An introduction to difference ethical theories, for example: hedonism, egoism, virtue ethics, deontology (e.g., Kantian or moral intuitionism), utilitarianism, social contract ethics, ethics of care. 
  3. A consideration of  moral ideas and concepts such as: character, practical virtues (phronesis), the mean, weakness of will, compassion, beneficence, self-sacrifice, self-love, selfishness, enlightened self-interest, pleasure, means and ends, intrinsic and extrinsic worth, duty, motive and intention, universalizability, obligation, rational freedom, conscience, autonomy and agency, principle, ideals, rights, public welfare, happiness, consequences, maximization, equality, paternalism, responsibility.
  4. The application of moral reasoning to sport, for example:
    • the moral significance of sport
    • intimidation, competition, and sportsmanship
    • gamesmanship and the moral ideal of fair play
    • cheating and strategic fouling
    • violence in sport
    • eligibility in sport
    • commercialized sport
    • exploitation of student athletes
    • gender and racial equity in sport
  5. The application of moral reasoning in other physical activity settings, for example:
    • ergogenic aids for sport performance and health problems
    • genetic technology in sport
    • sport science, physical education and research
    • the ethics of supporting sports teams
    • disability rights in sports
    • codes of ethics

All five of these general areas will be covered, although emphasis will depend on the discretion and interest of the instructor.

Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

  • combination of lecture and seminar
  • group discussions, student presentations and projects
  • video observation
  • case studies

Parts and/or entire classes may be devoted to formal lectures or to structured, informal discussions. Usually some combination of both is employed to ensure that assigned readings are discussed.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.

Any possible combination of the following which equals 100%:

In-class tests, quizzes, short written assignments:   20% - 50%
Written class presentations, Essays,  Final Exam:   30% - 100%
Instructor’s General Evaluation:
(may include attendance, class participation,
group work, homework, etc.)
    0% - 20%




Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student should be able to:

  1. Explain and in other ways demonstrate an understanding of the main ethical theories covered within the course.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship of notions such as ethical character, luck, virtue and moral deliberation to physical activity and physical education, as well as to main concepts in sport, such as competition, coaching, fairness, moral character and moral judgment.
  3. Apply basic reasoning skills to the topics covered within the course, including the ability to reason from general ethical principles to their application in specific, concrete situations.
  4. Explain the moral reasoning involved in conflicting viewpoints that directly or indirectly oppose one another.
  5. Develop some philosophical appreciation of the significance of a coherent ethical worldview, as well as the importance of morality in both public and private life, including the role of ethics in social institutions.
  6. Relate ethics to sport and physical education. For example, the case for health through active living; the ethics of competition; sportsmanship as a moral category; the inter-relationship between games, competition and winning; the role of substances and devices that makes improved performance possible.
  7. Critically analyze case-studies that pertain to ethical theory and issues arising from sports and recreation; in particular, the ability to articulate objective criteria employed in the justification of ethical decisions.
Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically. Similar texts may be used with Department approval.  Examples are:

  • Boxill, Jan. Ed. Sport Ethics. London: Blackwell, 2003.
  • Lumpkin, Angela, Sharon Kay Stoll and Jennifer M. Beller. Sport Ethics: Applications for Fair Play. 3rd ed.          NY: McGraw Hill, 2003.           
  • Kretchmar, R.S. Practical Philosophy of Sport and Physical Activity. 2nd ed. IL: Human Kinetics, 2005.
  • Malloy, David Cruise, Saul Ross and Dwight H. Zakus. Sport Ethics: Concepts and Cases in Sport and Recreation. 2nd ed. Toronto: Thompson Publishing, 2003.
  • Morgan, William J., Ed. Ethics in Sport. 2nd ed. UL: Human Kinetics, 2007.
  • McNamee, M.J. and S.J. Parry, Eds. Ethics and Sport. NY: E&FN Spon, 1998.
  • Feezell, Randolph. Sport, Play and Ethical Reflection. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2004.
  • Loland, Sigmund. Fair Play in Sport. London: Routledge, 2002.



Third Year Standing (or Permission of Instructor)


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PHIL 4205
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PHIL 1XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PHIL 1106 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PHIL 1XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PHIL 4XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PHIL 2XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PHIL 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC POLS 317 (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PHIL 3XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC EPHE 2XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU PHIL 4th (3)

Course Offerings

Fall 2023

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Section Notes

PHIL 4205 001 is restricted to third year BPEC students.

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New Westminster - South Bldg.
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