Dialectics of Boxing

Dialectics of Boxing

In the late 1950s, Jean-Paul Sartre decided that it was necessary to rethink his entire philosophy. Writing for twenty hours a day, taking amphetamines to spur himself on, Sartre wrote the two enormous volumes of the Critique of Dialectical Reason. This astonishing second volume, now available in English for the first time, is sure to lead
to a reassessment of his place in intellectual history. For it is now clear that, whatever his shortcomings as a philosopher, novelist, and playwright, Sartre was the greatest boxing commentator of all time. In the first fifty pages of this volume, as a prelude to his study of the dynamics of social conflict, Sartre brilliantly examines the dynamics of conflict in the boxing ring. Rather than quote him out of context, I thought the best way to convey a sense of Sartre’s genius was to place his observations in a real-life setting. In the section that follows, I use excerpts from Sartre’s discussion of boxing to show how much he might have added to “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” if he had been a color commentator alongside Howard Cosell. All of Sartre’s remarks are actual quotations.

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