Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Health of the Body and Tranquility of Mind

"If we look beyond Platonic sources, we will be reminded that Socrates "took care to exercise his body and kept it in good condition" by regular dance training.  "The body," he declared, "is valuable for all human activities, and in all   its uses it is very important that it should be as fit as possible.  Even in the act of thinking, which is supposed to require least assistance from the body, everyone knows that serious mistakes often happen through physical ill-health."  Socrates was not the only ancient philosopher to celebrate physical health and advocate somatic training and refinement.  Before him, Cleobulus, a sage "distinguished for strength and beauty, and acquainted with Egyptian philosophy, " "advised men to practice bodily exercise."  Aristippus (hedonistic pupil of Socrates and founder of the Cyrenaic school) claimed "that bodily training contributes to the acquisition of virtue," while Zeno, founder of the Stoics, likewise urged regular bodily exercise, claiming that "proper care of health and one's organs of sense" are "unconditional duties."  Though rating mental pleasures above bodily ones, Epicurus still affirmed "health of body and tranquility of mind" as the twin goals of philosophy's quest for "a blessed life.""
-  Richard Schusterman, Body Consciousness, 2008, p 17

“Recognition of somatic training as an essential means towards philosophical enlightenment and virtue lies at the heart of the Asian practices of hatha yoga, Zen meditation, and T’ai Chi Ch’uan.  As Japanese philosopher Yuasa Yasuo insists, the concept of “personal cultivation,” or shugyō (an obvious analogue of “care of the self’), is presupposed in Eastern thought as “the philosophical foundation” because “true knowledge” cannot be obtained simply by means of theoretical thinking, but only through ‘bodily recognition or realization’ (tainin or taitoku).  From its very beginnings, East-Asian philosophy has insisted on the bodily dimension of self-knowledge and self-cultivation.  When the Confucian Analects advocate daily examining one’s person in the quest for self-improvement, the word translated as “person” is actually the Chinese word for body (shen 身). Arguing that care of the body is the basic task and responsibility without which we cannot successfully perform all our other tasks and duties, Mencius claims, “The functions of the body are the endowment of Heaven.  But it is only a Sage who can properly manipulate them.”  The classic Daoist thinkers Laozi and Zhuangzi similarly urge the special importance of somatic care: “He who loves his body more than dominion over the empire can be given the custody of the empire [Laozi, C17].”  “You have only to take care and guard your own body .. and other things will of themselves grow sturdy;” the Sage is concerned with the means by which to keep the body whole and to care for life”; “being complete in body, he is complete in spirit; and to be complete in spirit is the Way of the Sage (Zhuangzi).”
-  Richard Schusterman, Body Consciousness, 2008, p.18 

Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics.  By Richard Shusterman.  New York, Cambridge University Press, 2008.  Index, bibliography, 239 pages.  ISBN: 9780521858908.  Theory.  VSCL.   

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