1. What were Aristotle's followers called?
2. Who said his mind only worked with his legs?
3. Whose mentor called walking "gymnastics for the mind"?
4. Who had a "Sand-walk"?
5. How much does the average American walk?
6. Name a city with a "Philosophers' Walk".
And some discussion questions (remember, you get a base for each DQ suggestion you post or comment on before class):
1. Would you like to have attended Aristotle's school, Plato's, neither, or both? Why?
2. Do you consider yourself an active or a sedentary person, by preference? (If given a choice, on a lovely Fall day, would you rather stay in and play video games or go out for a walk/hike/run/bikeride/swim/etc.?)
3. What's the most memorable outdoor experience you've ever had?
4. Have you ever attempted to share your beliefs, convictions, core principles (etc.) in public? (Ifyes, would you say you did it in a spirit of evangelism and proselytizing, or in a philosophical way? What's the difference? And if no, why not?)
5. Are you a good listener? (Do you try to understand the points of view of those who disagree with your beliefs, or do you simply dismiss them as just wrong?)
6. Do you agree that we live in a time of intolerance and incivility, when it comes to dissenting points of view?
Some old posts
Monday, August 29, 2016
Walking to the stars
What a gorgeous, beckoning crescent moon out here in this morning's pre-dawn.
In CoPhi we're talking walking today, with side-orders of space-faring and belief-sharing.
We'll discuss the first two chapters of Frederic Gros's Philosophy of Walking, and Christopher Orlet's Gymnasiums of the Mind.
We'll also consider these old posts and this one on walking and believing (and the ongoing This I Believe franchise), Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot, and Sagan heir Neil de Grasse Tyson's Why exploring space still matters. The common thread? Some of us fervently believe, with Nietzsche, Rousseau, and so many others, that the best ideas first come while walking. Some of us also believe we should expand our range to include more distant turf, over the Terran horizon. I'm a believer.
Given the vast scale of the cosmos, and the fact that we've really only just learned to walk, "we" means future humans. But the horizon just came a lot closer, with the discovery of our sister planet at Proxima Centauri. By present propulsion technology, of course, Proxima Centauri is NOT in such close proximity. It's 80,000 years away. If that Russian billionaire figures out how to boost those iPhone-size probes to a fifth of the speed of light they'll get there in 20 years. This is less about us getting there, than about us getting excited about our great-great...grandchildren getting there, and for that even to be possible we have to get excited about sustaining this planet, here and now. An Exoplanet Too Far
Neil Tyson believes a redoubling of our efforts in space would be the most practical investment we could ever make in our species.
'We need to double NASA's budget because not only is it the grandest epic adventure a human being can undertake, not only would the people who led this adventure be the ones we end up building statues to and naming high schools after and becoming the next generation's Mercury 7 as role models, not only will there be spinoff products from these discoveries, but what's more important than all of those, what's more practical than all of those, is that he will transform the economy into one that will lead the world once again rather than trail the world as we are inevitably going to be doing over the next decade.'"
And it'll give us peripatetics a lot more room to roam.
The cosmic perspective need not lead to resignation and existential despair, of the sort hinted in Bertrand Russell's "A Free Man's Worship" - "For countless ages the hot nebula whirled aimlessly through space..." -and made light of in his "Why I Am Not a Christian" - "Nobody really worries much about what is going to happen millions of years hence..."
Some do, actually. But others, reflecting on a mote of dust with Carl Sagan, dream.
We humans have set foot on another world in a place called the Sea of Tranquility, an astonishing achievement for creatures such as we, whose earliest footsteps three and one-half million years old are preserved in the volcanic ash of east Africa. We have walked far.
It all began with one small step. Between now and the end of eternity, we have countless more steps to enjoy. Let's go.
And bring a book. I recommend Five Billion Years of Solitude: the Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings.
5:45/6:18, 73/90, 7:17
Back for Day 3, we turn happily to our philosophical labors in CoPhilosophy. Today we introduce (and maybe even emulate) the peripatetics, and we explore the earnest atmosphere of This I Believe.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) founded his Lyceum just outside Athens and
gathered around him a group of brilliant research students, called “peripatetics” from the name of the cloister (peripatos) in which they walked and held their discussions. The Lyceum was not a private club like [Plato's] Academy; many of the lectures there were open to the general public and given free of charge. EB
Nowadays, a "peripatetic" has just come to mean someone who travels a lot. I prefer the older signification, of someone who (like Aristotle's students in the Lyceum peripatos) walks while talking philosophy. That's how we'll understand and apply the concept in our CoPhi collaborations.
...the act of ambulation – or as we say in the midwest, walking – often serves as a catalyst to creative contemplation and thought. It is a belief as old as the dust that powders the Acropolis, and no less fine. Followers of the Greek Aristotle were known as peripatetics because they passed their days strolling and mind-wrestling through the groves of the Academe. The Romans’ equally high opinion of walking was summed up pithily in the Latin proverb Solvitur Ambulando: “It is solved by walking.”
...Erasmus recommended a little walk before supper and “after supper do the same.” Thomas Hobbes had an inkwell built into his walking stick to more easily jot down his brainstorms during his rambles. Jean- Jacques Rousseau claimed he could only meditate when walking: “When I stop, I cease to think,” he said. “My mind only works with my legs.” Søren Kierkegaard believed he’d walked himself into his best thoughts. In his brief life Henry David Thoreau walked an estimated 250,000 miles, or ten times the circumference of earth. “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits,” wrote Thoreau, “unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from worldly engagements.” Thoreau’s landlord and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson characterized walking as “gymnastics for the mind.”
In order that he might remain one of the fittest, Charles Darwin planted a 1.5 acre strip of land with hazel, birch, privet, and dogwood, and ordered a wide gravel path built around the edge. Called Sand-walk, this became Darwin’s ‘thinking path’ where he roamed every morning and afternoon with his white fox-terrier. Of Bertrand Russell, long-time friend Miles Malleson has written: “Every morning Bertie would go for an hour’s walk by himself, composing and thinking out his work for that day. He would then come back and write for the rest of the morning, smoothly, easily and without a single correction.”
None of these laggards, however, could touch Friedrich Nietzsche, who held that “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Rising at dawn, Nietzsche would stalk through the countryside till 11 a.m. Then, after a short break, he would set out on a two-hour hike through the forest to Lake Sils. After lunch he was off again, parasol in hand, returning home at four or five o’clock, to commence the day’s writing. Christopher Orlet, "Gymnasiums of the Mind"
This I Believe II was MTSU's freshman summer read this year. Jay Allison, who revived the old '50s TIB franchise, was to have spoken at convocation last year but weather interfered.
Here's where it all began, in 1951. As Mr. Murrow said, there's no "pill of wisdom"... but lots of wise people are real pills. Many of these concise testimonials of conviction will make you feel better about the human condition.
These little essays are sometimes light and fluffy, sometimes dense, sometimes funny, occasionally profound. I'm asking students to find their faves. Sticking just to those included in Jay Allison's first book, I guess these would be mine:Albert Einstein, An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man
Oscar Hammerstein II, Happy Talk
Victor Hanson, Natural Links in a Long Chain of Being
Penn Jillette, There is No God
Erroll Morris, There Is Such a Thing as Truth
Azar Nafisi, Mysterious Connections That Link Us Together
Eboo Patel, We Are Each Other's Business
Jackie Robinson, Free Minds and Hearts at Work
Wallace Stegner, Everything Potent is Dangerous
Arnold Toynbee, I Agree With a Pagan
John Updike, Testing the Limits of What I Know and Feel
This just scratches the surface. There are tens of thousands of essays in the archives, growing daily; and that probably doesn't include yours. Yet.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
An image of life itself
It's an undeservedly neglected gem. My Philosophy Walks project has finally drawn me to this compendium of insight and delight, drawings, period photos, practical tips for dedicated walkers (including a section at the end on stretching), and judiciously selected quotations like this one from Donald Culross Peattie's Joy of Walking:
Time is not money; time is a an opportunity to live before you die. So a man who walks, and lives and sees and thinks as he walks, has lengthened his life.I'm happy to acknowledge another unsung fellow philosopher of walking.
There's nothing about Walk! in John's published biographical note. I suppose he considers it too slight (compared with his impressive subsequent body of work) to mention. I would differ with that judgment, and concur enthusiastically with his conclusion:
Walking means seeing the unseen, understanding, friendship, privacy, emotional perspective, physical capacity... an image of life itself.Early in the book, Man offers a partial taxonomy of walking styles including the Peripatetics' "stroll" - " the type of locomotion adopted by tourists, lovers, promenaders and thinkers."
I actually think better, I think, at a faster clip. With dogs. Without a stick.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
This book could not have been written by sitting still. The relationship between paths, walking and the imagination is its subject, and much of its thinking was therefore done -- was only possible -- while on foot...
Above all, this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move.So I'll be writing a different preface to a different book, though one that also cannot be conceived or executed at anchorage. His foot journey was geographically extended, mine tend to circle familiar ground, but we're both members in good standing of the peripatetics club.
Isn't reconnoitre a great word! It's le bon mot for a big part of what I walk for. I'd be truly lost without my daily morning internal reconnaissance, which can only happen after moving to "higher" ground on shank's mare. The elevation sought is not necessarily to be measured in feet or meters, or even in words. But the bookish medium defiantly imposes that particular yardstick, so I'd better go reconnoitre for some more of those. Words, I mean.
Friday, June 28, 2013
"Peripatetic": terrific word, fabulous idea. One day early in the Fall semester I'm going to fulfill a lifelong ambition and conduct class peripatetically.
From the time of Aristotle until 86 BC there was a continuous succession of philosophers in charge of the school in the Lyceum. The common name for the school, Peripatetic, was derived either from the peripatos in the Lyceum grounds or from Aristotle’s habit of lecturing while walking [but, you call this walking?]... The Lyceum’s fame-and the fame of other schools in Athens-attracted increasing numbers of philosophers and students from all over the Mediterranean world...
The utter destruction of Athens in AD 267 probably ended this renaissance of scholarly activity. The work of Peripatetic philosophers continued elsewhere, but it is unclear whether they returned to the Lyceum. Nothing certain is known about the Lyceum during the remainder of the third through early sixth centuries AD. Any remaining philosophical activity would certainly have ended in AD 529, when the emperor Justinian closed all the philosophical schools in Athens.We don't seem to know much for sure about the ancient peripatetics.
According to the tradition, Andronicus of Rhodes was the eleventh successor of Aristotle as head of the Peripatos, the school that Aristotle founded in Athens (Ammonius, In De Int. 5.28-29). We have good reasons to doubt this tradition.Well, we almost always have good reasons to doubt every tradition. Aristotle's Lyceum and its walking philosophers ended in Athens but "continued to exist in the form of a philosophical sect," and more importantly continues to exist as an idea, a state of mind, and a style of living. Walk this way...
Podcasts: I believe in the peripatetic life... Sym-pathetic peripatetics