Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Philosophy as a Contact Sport

I've a piece in today's Australian, 'Philosophy as a Contact Sport'.  I'm reflecting on what the martial arts offered me, as a scholar.  A sample:
As a young student of karate, I was always taught to restrain my kicks and punches; to stop short of seriously injuring an opponent. This was particularly so with beginners. Restraint has an obvious practical benefit: if we're injured, we cannot train. No point busting jaws and noses left, right and centre; there will be no one left to train with. And one cannot train in the martial arts alone.
But there is a more profound lesson at work here: confrontation need not be malicious, spiteful or even adversarial. When sparring, my motives weren't anger or revenge. I wanted to learn; to test my techniques, judgment and mindfulness against a skilled, committed opponent. This was less like vulgar confrontation, and more like collaboration: we were helping one another to become more educated.
This had a distinct philosophical value. It accustomed me to seeing confrontation as an educational tool, not a petty squabble. Debate was an opportunity to learn, rather than a point-scoring sport or battle of wills.
(Photo: Jastrow)

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