Betting Existentialism The Aesthetic, Ethical and Religious Punter


The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is concerned with the question, how to become a true Christian?

He talks of three existential stages;

  • The aesthetic
  • The ethical
  • The religious

These three stages represent both the process of becoming a true Christian, but it also represents three human archetypes. Okay, so now what? What does this have to do with betting? In this post I'll try to draw some lines between Kierkegaards existentialism and what I call betting existentialism - how to become a true punter. Okay, let's try to do some philosophy (yes, you can join even though you don't have a tweed jacket)!

Kierkegaard writes:

"So it is too that in the eyes of the world it is dangerous to venture. And why? Because one may lose. But not to venture is shrewd. And yet, by not venturing, it is so dreadfully easy to lose that which it would be difficult to lose in even the most venturesome venture… one's self. For if I have ventured amiss - very well. Then life helps me by its punishment. But if I have not ventured at all - who then helps me? And moreover, if by not venturing at all in the highest sense (and to venture in the highest sense if precisely to become conscious of oneself) I have gained all earthly advantages… and lose my self! What of that?" - (Sickness Unto Death - Soren Kierkegaard)

Quite hard to get your mind around this one. So let's have it in short: To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.

What do you think? I think this quote captures one of the things I like about betting - the excitement and the losing of one's footing after placing the bet. The thrill. Another thing I like about betting is all the thinking you have to do, to be successfull. And thinking is after all what philosophy is about, so maybe we can learn something.

Let's have a closer look to the three archetypes or existential stages:

1. The aesthetic

The aesthetic is described as the seducer. He is always on the flight from boredom, seeking entertainment and taking nothing serious. He likes to think, that he can manipulate people and events. He is always playing around, provoking and trying to recreating the world in his own image. He is seeking the thrill, trying to transform everything boring into something interesting. He obeys no rules, and is at the same time in no position to say no to temptations.

Is this you? Maybe not, so lets move on the next existential stage.

2. The ethical

The ethical on the other hand is deeply engaged in the community. He follows every rule, and would never try to break out of the social norms he's surrounded by. The ethical person accepts limits of society and moral. He fulfills his duties and requirements. And he doesn't give in to temptations. But the experience lacks personal meaning and fails to validate his individual existence.

You will both win and lose in your experiences with sports betting and gambling. Whether you're successful or not will in the long run depend on your own behaviour and some external factors.

Maybe you would think, that this is a person who does not bet or gamble at all. And it could very well be. But it could also be a person who is not creative at all, and just follows every guideline he reads, without any criticism. Well, lets have a look at the last stage, the religious.

3. The religious

Faith is the most important task to be achieved by a human being, because only on the basis of faith does an individual have a chance to become a true self. According to Kierkegaard, this self is the life-work which God judges for eternity. A transformation occurs only if one progresses to the religious stage, by choosing to acknowledge one’s mortality and sinfulness and the inadequacy of objective ethics to furnish a meaning for oneself and the emptiness that the first two stages lead to.

This is the stage where we become responsible for our actions and dare to take risks, but at the same time we know that we cannot control events and yet still trust ourselves.

Take home point

You will both win and lose in your experiences with sports betting and gambling. Whether you're successful or not will in the long run depend on your own behaviour and some external factors. There are pros and cons connected to every of the above described archetypes. The aesthetic person will put too much weight on his own role in this math, thinking he can control how things evolve. But he will also be creative and playful. The ethic person will give too much credit to what others think, and follow every rule. But this implies also the ability to listen and learn from others. The religious will be humble and know that no one is a genius. And still he will have faith in himself and be willing to take risks.

As Kierkegaard says, the religious stage is “simultaneously to be out on 70,000 fathoms of water and yet be joyful.”